June 14, 2012
EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioanno is pressing forward with his African airline initiative with the planned acquisition of a stake in Angola’s Fly540.
Haji-Ioanno’s Fastjet Rubicon Investment company in what is defined as a reverse takeover will integrate with Lonrho Aviation, which owns part of Fly540, in a deal valued at $85.7 million. Lonrho will hold a 73.7% controlling stake in the new Rubicon, with Haji-Ioanno’s EasyGroup also holding a separate stake and two seats on the board of directors.
The transaction will be submitted to shareholders for approval on June 29.
Rubicon CEO Ed Winter says the carrier’s fleet decision will soon be unveiled, but in an interview with Aviation Week says the Airbus A319 is most attractive because lease rates are low, although the Embraer 190 regional jet and Boeing 737-700 also are being considered. Fastjet's website also has an artist impression of an Airbus narrowbody in a new Fastjet livery.
The fleet is expected to grow to 15-20 aircraft in the first few years.
Initially, the company will retain some of the ATR turboprops from Fly540s fleet in that carrier's livery, but these eventually will be phased out. Rubicon wants to quickly transition to the Fastjet brand to signal a clear shift in the business model.
Adjustment of the fleet and network, as well as pricing structure, will happen around three to four months after the formal takeover is completed, which is expected in July.
Fastjet wants to offer tickets for as low as $20, but will use selling techniques normally associated with traditional carriers, such as travel agents and mobile telephone charging systems, because of the lack of Internet, debit and credit card infrastructure, says Richard Boden, the airline's chief commercial officer.
The carrier also vows to maintain strict, European safety standards. Winter says that will be aided, initially, by flying into well-served airports.