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Business briefing: Mayday from easyJet boss after paying out £170m

EASYJET’S boss has defended handing over £170million to shareholders while asking the government for financial help because of coronavirus.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren (pictured) said the airline was legally bound to make dividend payments — due to go out today — that were agreed at the company AGM.

And he said the airline was not asking the government for ‘free money’.

‘We are basically asking for the help and support to get liquidated on a commercial term and basis,’ he added.

In an earlier interview, Mr Lundgren told ITV’s Robert Peston that easyJet had cancelled 14,000 flights so far this month. ‘Everything from the Gulf War, to 9/11, to Sars, the financial crisis in 2008 and the ash cloud, there is nothing as bad as what I see right now,’ he added. ‘And the issue around it is really the uncertainty. You know, when is this going to end.’

Ryanair will cancel more than four in five flights until Tuesday, with an exception for ‘essential connectivity’ journeys, while rival has suspended all flights until next month. Mr Lundgren, who also suggested that taxes could be deferred, warned aviation businesses ‘will go bankrupt long before a year from now unless there is support in there’.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps made calls to major airlines and airports on Wednesday. He thanked them for help bringing stranded Britons home, adding: ‘We stand firmly behind the sector and expect to announce support measures shortly.’

EXECUTIVE pay at bailed-out firms should be capped at ten times a middle income worker’s salary, a think tank reports. Lessons must be learned from the financial crisis when public money was used to rescue banks without addressing ‘well-documented problems’ in the sector, says the High Pay Centre. Vast bonuses were paid with the £850billion used to bail out the banks, it added.

Del Boy fan’s flat share scheme ain’t so cushty

Pukka: Michael Hutchinson in the replica front room with the real Boycie and Marlene PICTURE: SWNS

AN ONLY Fools and Horses superfan who quit his job to take a replica of the Trotters’ famous front room on tour has seen his get-rich-quick scheme scuppered by Covid-19.

Michael Hutchinson, who had worked in finance for 26 years, resigned in January to turn his passion for the classic sitcom into a business.

But this time next year, it’s unlikely he’ll be a millionaire — all his bookings have been cancelled due to the crisis.

‘The coronavirus has killed me off instantly,’ said Mr Hutchinson. ‘It’s typical Del Boy style — everything would always go against him and this has gone against me.’ The 42-year-old, from Bingley in West Yorkshire, forked out £2,000 to create the 16x12ft replica, complete with palm tree wall paper, bottles of Peckham Spring Water and Del’s iconic bar.

It went on display at a Comic Con event last weekend in Liverpool, where actors John Challis and Sue Holderness (aka Boycie and Marlene) took a look and thought it was the ‘crème de la menthe’.

But after the crackdown on social gatherings, Mr Hutchinson said: ‘I’m just hoping that this time next year I’ll be able to pick up again.’

IG revenues up by 29% due to volatile market

ONLINE trading platform IG Group has reported revenues surging 29 per cent to £139.8million in the three months to February 29 amid ‘unprecedented’ market volatility due to the coronavirus crisis.

Next warns of £1bn hit but will stay open

NEXT is bracing for a potential £1billion loss in revenue as it warned full-year sales could plunge 25 per cent due to coronavirus. But the clothing chain will keep all its branches open until advised otherwise.

Markets rise as UK and EU central banks promise cash

THE FTSE-100 rebounded yesterday after the Bank of England cut interest rates to a record low of 0.1 per cent to fight the impact of coronavirus.

The blue-chip index closed 71.03 points higher at 5,151.61 after news the central bank was increasing its holding of UK government and corporate bonds by £200billion.

Markets were also buoyed by the European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus deal, which saw Christine Lagarde announce a £687billion economic package for the Eurozone.

The news pushed the German Dax up by two per cent and the French Cac rose 2.68 per cent higher.

The pound recovered slightly after a fall on Wednesday, rising 0.75 per cent versus the US dollar to 1.167 and 2.86 per cent against the euro to 1.091.