Wizz Air boss looks through Brexit clouds, sees more growth in UK

April 30, 2019

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Wizz Air’s chief executive is confident his low-cost carrier can grow in Britain and tackle the challenges presented by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Jozsef Varadi told Reuters on Tuesday that Wizz still had work to do to meet EU rules after Brexit but said it was time for Britain to “just get it done and move beyond Brexit” as the deadline for the country’s departure has been pushed back.

“We remain very bullish, and very committed to the UK market. Even if I look at the current performance, it is pretty solid,” Varadi said in an interview, adding that he found the furor around Brexit “tiring”.

“I don’t really care how Brexit plays out, to be honest. I think I would like to see the end of it, whatever it is.”

Budapest-based Wizz Air, which is focused on central and eastern Europe, said this month its net profit for the year would be in the upper half of its guidance.

That contrasts with bigger rivals, such as easyJet, which have been cautious about how Brexit will affect demand.

Varadi said Wizz had grown 30 percent in London since the Brexit vote and that demand was still robust.

The new deadline for Britain’s departure from the EU is set for Oct. 31. Travel firm Thomas Cook said on Monday holidaymakers were delaying decisions on where to go and opting for non-EU destinations due to the impasse.

Wizz does not compete with easyJet or Ryanair on busy UK routes to the Mediterranean, but does offer routes from London to fast-growing non-EU destinations like Georgia.

Varadi said Brexit posed complications for airlines, but added: “I don’t think that we’re going to end up with a disastrous scenario on aviation.”

Airlines that will no longer be majority owned by EU nationals once Britain leaves the EU are set to lose their right to fly within the bloc after Brexit due to share ownership rules.

Varadi said Wizz had “some work to do” on this issue, as it was not close to being 50 percent owned by EU nationals outside of Britain. He said he was seeking more EU investors, but added shareholders could be disenfranchised to ensure rules were met.

Like other airlines, Wizz has clauses in its articles of association which can allow it to remove voting rights from all non-EU shareholders as a last resort to comply with the rules.

Varadi said Wizz had set up a subsidiary in Britain in a bid to protect flights between the EU and the UK after Brexit, as well as flights from the UK to elsewhere.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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