Stobart Teams Up With Virgin Atlantic To Buy Flybe

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Warwick Brady, chief executive of Stobart Group, said: "The board of Stobart Group believes that bringing Stobart Air together with Flybe and partnering with Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital is the best way for us to play an active role in United Kingdom regional flying".

Ports of Jersey has called the sale of Flybe "positive news" but says it is yet to have any formal discussion with the airlines and businesses involved.

Flybe, which was advised by Evercore, recommended that its shareholders vote in favour of the deal as the terms were fair reasonable, Stobart said.

The group, known as Connect Airways, also includes Southend Airport owner Stobart Group and the U.S. private-equity firm Cyrus Capital Partners.

Stobart and Virgin will each have a 30% interest in Connect, which will use the Virgin Atlantic brand to operate a network of regional flights provided by a combination of Flybe and Stobart Air.

This will be followed by a further £80 investment in future months.

Stobart Group's aviation unit and Virgin Atlantic will each hold 30%.

The Combined Group intends for Flybe to continue as an independent operating carrier with a separate UK Air Operator Certificate (AOC) under the Virgin Atlantic brand.

Flybe Group (LSE:FLYB) plummeted 90% in early trading today, hitting 1.56p after revealing a cash offer of just 1p per share with Connect Airways.

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Flybe chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said "We have been affected by all of these factors which have put pressure on short-term financial performance".

Matt Roach, managing director of Exeter Airport said: "Any deal which safeguards the future of the UK's principal regional airline is important because regional connectivity is vital to our economy and regional airports need sustainable carriers".

The three firms have committed to make a £20m bridge available to support Flybe's current operations, while an additional £80m will be provided to the combined group.

Flybe will continue to serve customers and communities across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

"We are pleased to have this opportunity to partner with Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital to bring Virgin Atlantic service excellence to Flybe's customers".

Virgin and its new partners form a new joint venture, Connect Airways.

In the United Kingdom, they serve Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster-Sheffield, Durham Tees Valley, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Humberside, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London City/Gatwick/Heathrow/Southend/Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Stornoway and Wick.

Warwick Brady, chief executive of Stobart Group, said it would also be an opportunity to get more passengers to fly from Southend airport, which it owns, along with Carlisle airport.

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