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Business briefing: Flybe holds crunch talks over funding rescue deal

Turbulent times: A Flybe plane PICTURE: PA

FLYBE has held crunch talks with the government in a bid to save the budget airline that employs 2,000 people.

The Exeter-based carrier has been beset by problems including a fall in demand, rising fuel costs and a weak pound. It could become the second airline in four months to collapse following the demise of Thomas Cook.

Talks on emergency financing are understood to have been held with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Transport (DfT) at the weekend.

MPs have been scathing about the BEIS over its handling of Thomas Cook.

Brian Strutton, head of pilots’ union Balpa, said he was ‘appalled’ Flybe’s future was ‘being discussed in secret with no input from employees or their representatives’.

Flybe carries about 8million passengers a year to 170 European destinations. It was bought by a consortium known as Connect Airways — comprising of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital — for £2.2million in February last year.

Connect boss Mark Anderson has said Flybe would be renamed Virgin Connect and he wanted it to be ‘Europe’s most loved and successful regional airline’.

Flights operated as normal yesterday as Flybe said it ‘continues to focus on providing great service and connectivity for our customers, to ensure that they can continue to travel as planned’.

Flybe, the BEIS and DfT would not comment on the report of talks.

Lost Lowry painting could be worth a mill

Under the hammer: The painting of workers on a day off PICTURE: GUY BELL/REX

A NEWLY-DISCOVERED work by LS Lowry could fetch £1million when it is sold later this month.

The Mill, Pendlebury, which has been put on display at Christie’s, was painted in 1943. It depicts the Manchester-based artist’s iconic ‘matchstick’ workers having a day off as children play cricket.

It had been lost to the art world for more than 70 years while it stayed in the US, owned by medical researcher Leonard D Hamilton, who died last year. Lowry gave the work to Mr Hamilton’s parents when they were living in Manchester in the 1940s.

The couple later gave it to their son — who used to hang it on the wall of his accommodation while at Oxford university.

The painting is set to sell for between £700,000 and £1million when it is auctioned by Christie’s on January 21.

Works by other major British artists, including Henry Moore, John Piper and Howard Hodgkin, will also be under the hammer in the three-day Modern British Art sale.

Whisky bosses call on US to limit tariff blow

WHISKY industry bosses are to hold trade talks in Washington amid fears the US may increase import taxes on single malts.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: ‘A further rise could be devastating to distillers. We will urge the US government to lift the tariffs altogether.’

A 25 per cent duty was placed on Scotch and other goods last year. It is being reviewed but there are fears this could mean the Trump administration raising tariffs on single malts.

Scotch exports to the US are worth more than £1billion a year

BUSINESS BITES

■ BEALES warned it risks collapsing into administration, with 1,000 jobs at risk. The department store chain, which criticised the ‘lunacy’ of high business rates, has reportedly talked to two possible last-minute buyers.

■ TRAVELEX, which provides currency exchange services to HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and RBS, is making ‘good progress’ switching back on its systems after being hit with a ransomware virus on New Year’s Eve.

■ ESTATE agent Savills yesterday announced that full-year results will be at the ‘upper end’ of expectations. It said commercial and residential markets picked up after the General Election last month.

■ THE City Pub Group has warned that annual profits will fall short of market expectations at around £9.2million. It blamed poor Rugby World Cup trade, a train strike in London and a slow last quarter.

■ WILLIAM HILL predicts its profits for the past year will be shown to have surpassed expectations after it was buoyed by favourable sports results in December. It said operating profits should come in at about £145million.