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EasyJet pays founder £60m while asking for UK state aid to deal with coronavirus crisis

Tom McArthur
Page editor
An Easy Jet 'rescue flight' ready for departure at the John Paul II Krakow-Balice International Airport (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

EasyJet (EZJ.L) to press forward with a £174m ($202m) dividend payout to shareholders — despite appealing to the UK government for taxpayer help to deal with fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget airline said last week it could need credit or loans from the government to cope with the crisis. 

But on Friday night it said this wouldn’t affect the share payout, £60m of which will go to founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

The Times reports that easyJet hasn’t indicated that it would ask its investors to help the business.

Read more: Union backs Virgin Atlantic bosses plea for £7.5 billion UK airline coronavirus bailout

The airline reportedly took legal advice on whether it could withdraw or postpone the dividend. 

EasyJet’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren, told BBC radio on Saturday that the payment was “something that we are legally obliged to do”.

Scores of other stock market listed companies are withdrawing or reconsidering their annual payouts. 

Since 2012, the airline has paid some £1.8bn to shareholders, including this latest dividend. Sir Stelios - who controls 34% of easyJet - and family interests have received almost £650m, the Times reports.

A spokesman for Easyjet said the airline wasn’t looking for a taxpayer bailout. 

Mr Lundgren said: “We are looking for loans on a commercial basis. We are not asking for free money.

European travel restrictions have led easyJet to ground more than 100 aircraft and start to save money by putting its staff on unpaid leave.

Read more: Gatwick Airport announces job losses and runway closure amid coronavirus pandemic

Yahoo Finance UK has approached easyJet for comment.