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EasyJet Shares Fall as CEO Johan Lundgren Prepares to Step Down

  • CFO Jarvis to succeed Lundgren as CEO early next year
  • Jarvis says committed to current strategy
  • H1 pretax loss 350 mln stg vs guidance of 340-360 mln
  • Shares down almost 7%

LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - Johan Lundgren, the architect of easyJet's recovery from the pandemic, will step down in early 2025, it said on Thursday, sending its shares sharply lower as the budget airline also reported first-half losses in line with its expectations.

Lundgren, who has slashed debt and built up a profitable packaged holiday business, will be succeeded by Chief Financial Officer Kenton Jarvis who, like Lundgren, joined easyJet from Europe's largest travel company TUI.

EasyJet shares were down almost 7% at 0801 GMT, wiping out most of the gains made this year in their biggest drop since October, even as Jarvis told reporters he was committed to the board's current strategy.

The company reported a headline pretax loss of 350 million pounds ($444 million) for the first half of its financial year, versus an expected loss of 340 million pounds, according to an LSEG poll. Losses were 392 million pounds a year earlier.

EasyJet had forecast a loss of 340-360 million pounds.

It said headline costs were up 17% as jet fuel prices rose and it continued investing in its holiday business, which logged a 40% rise in passengers year-on-year.

"We are now absolutely focused on another record summer which is expected to deliver strong FY24 earnings growth and are on track to achieve our medium term targets," Lundgren said in a statement.

Those targets include reaching a group pretax profit of 1 billion pounds by 2028.

Analysts said Jarvis' appointment was a sign of continuity. The company did not say why Lundgren, who has been at the helm for seven years, was stepping down.

European airlines reported mixed first quarter results as costs rose but are counting on an expected record summer of travel to boost revenues as consumers continue to prioritise spending on holidays since the pandemic.

EasyJet has said it is well-positioned to capitalise on that demand, with its Airbus fleet unencumbered by RTX engine issues that have grounded some rivals' planes.

($1 = 0.7888 pounds)

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Sonali Paul and Mark Potter

Source: Reuters

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