Airx pre­pares for take-off on a £200m Lon­don float

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Oliver Gill

PRI­VATE jet op­er­a­tor Airx has ap­pointed ad­vis­ers as it pre­pares the run­way for a Lon­don float that could raise up to £200m next year.

Bankers from In­vestec and le­gal firm Nor­ton Rose have been hired to ex­plore an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing (IPO).

The com­pany is ma­jor­ity owned by chair­man John Matthews and boasts bil­lion­aires and celebri­ties as cus­tomers. It claims to have the “most di­verse fleet of air­craft in pri­vate avi­a­tion”.

Airx keeps its 250-strong celebrity client list pri­vate. How­ever, Lionel Messi and the Ar­gen­tinian foot­ball squad, their ri­vals from Brazil and Queen gui­tarist Brian May have re­cently all taken to so­cial me­dia to state their en­joy­ment of Airx’s ser­vices.

‘I buy at the right time. We want to raise a good deal of money to con­sol­i­date this bro­ken in­dus­try’

Mr Matthews di­vides opin­ion within the avi­a­tion sec­tor. He took over Airx in 2011 when it had three air­craft and £4m of debt. The com­pany now op­er­ates 17 planes, gen­er­ates £100m of an­nual rev­enue and has 300 staff ei­ther side of the At­lantic.

“We want to raise a good deal of money to con­sol­i­date this bro­ken in­dus­try,” he said.

Mr Matthews be­lieves the more un­scrupu­lous end of the rapidly ex­pand­ing, and un­reg­u­lated, pri­vate-char­ter bro­ker net­work could re­sult in high­pro­file clients fly­ing on a “non-au­dited cheap­ish jet”. In­stead Airx will of­fer its ser­vices di­rect to cus­tomers through its own book­ing ser­vice, he said.

The com­pany buys older air­craft at “one-eighth of cap­i­tal cost” be­fore spruc­ing them up. “I buy the air­craft at the right time, when they still have 20 years life left,” said Mr Matthews.

In 2016, Airx poached six top ex­ec­u­tives from lead­ing US air­craft char­ter op­er­a­tor Chap­man Free­born.

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