Southend Airport owner Stobart Group plunges to £42m loss

Southend Airport owner Stobart Group has plunged to a £42.6 million annual loss after it was hit by aviation costs and a £16 million write-down.

The transport firm fell to the pre-tax loss for the year to March 2019, from a £14.3 million loss the previous year, as it moved ahead with transformation plans.

Revenues jumped 39% during the year to £146.9 million as its airport saw passenger numbers rise by 33%.

The group made a £15.5 million loss on discontinued operations during the period, including Stobart Air and its aircraft leasing business Propius which it sold to the Connect Airways consortium in February.

It was hampered by £16.3 million of depreciation costs from ongoing operations, as well as £10.2 million in aviation and energy costs, it said.

Stobart also said it slipped to the loss after facing £5.2 million in legal costs largely related to its shareholder dispute.

The dispute saw a campaign last summer by Stobart’s former chief executive, Andrew Tinkler, to attempt to oust current chairman Iain Ferguson.

Mr Tinkler’s campaign drew support from large shareholders and polarised company executives, but failed at last year’s AGM, leading to his dismissal and an unsuccessful High Court case for his reinstatement.

Despite the failure of the campaign, Stobart agreed to replace Mr Ferguson as chairman.

New chief executive Warwick Brady said the firm has “significantly strengthened its board and management team” following the dispute, and has taken the opportunity to deal with “legacy issues” with rigour.

Mr Brady said: “This has been a transformational year for Stobart Group. As a result of the disposals and impairments in the year, the group has de-risked its balance sheet.

“Stobart Group has a clear focus on developing infrastructure assets in the aviation and energy sectors.”

The firm will invest to accelerate growth in its aviation and energy business, through spending cash resources and selling off non-core assets, it said.

Stobart was also part of the consortium which purchased troubled UK airline Flybe, alongside Virgin Airways and Cyrus Capital, earlier this year.