Shareholders of easyJet have rejected calls by its founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou to increase the company's dividend payout. The rebuff comes days ahead of his plans to stage a protest over the budget carrier's dividend policy.
The founder has called for the dividends to be increased from the current 40% of post-tax profits to 50%. Such a move will enable Stelios and his family to receive more money as they together own about 34% of the budget carrier.
Andrew Findlay, the company's newly hired finance chief, is reviewing the airline's balance sheet, which could provide for the dividend hike. However, Dame Carolyn McCall, easyJet's chief executive, said that the protests by Stelios would have no weight on the final decision taken by the board.
The founder of the company, which is set to trial a hybrid plane in 2016, as a "token protest" at Thursday's (11 February) annual general meeting plans to use 5% of his family's stake to vote against the re-election of John Barton, easyJet's chairman.
This is not the first time Stelios has had differences with the board. Four years ago, the founder had a spat with the board over executive pay. EasyJet's bigger shareholders including Standard Life, M&G and Sanderson Asset Management had then publicly supported the board rather than the founder.
On the current issue, Trevor Green, head of UK equities at Aviva Investors, which is among the top 20 investors in easyJet said "I am not looking for a change". The FTSE 100 airline has been paying dividends for five years and during this, it has made two special payouts. Green said that "if over time cash generation leads to the opportunity", he would prefer another special payout rather than an increase in the carrier's payout ratio.
He added that he was "very happy" with the airline's decision to stick with the policy outlined at its 2014 capital markets day, at which point it was decided to increase dividends from a third of post-tax profits to 40%, according to The Telegraph.
Green's views have been supported by another smaller institutional shareholder in easyJet who said that he was also happy with the move not to increase dividends. "If you're an investor you should believe in the company's growth strategy," the shareholder said. "If you believe in that, then you want the firm to reinvest the cashflow, not just return it to you," he added.