IAG Shareholders Back Plan To Raise €3.25bn In Equity As Walsh Steps Down
Shareholders backed Aer Lingus parent company International Airlines Group's (IAG) plan to raise €2.75 billion in equity at a virtual meeting on Tuesday September 8 that saw the airline group's long-time CEO, Willie Walsh, hand his role over to insider Luis Gallego.
Walsh had delayed his March departure from the company that he created in 2011 by merging British Airways and Iberia to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
The format of the annual general meeting, with chairman Antonio Vazquez in Madrid, Walsh in London and shareholders watching online, underlined how much has changed.
"It is the worst crisis we have ever faced, far worse than both 9/11 and the financial crash in 2008," Walsh said. "We are having to re-calibrate everything we do as we anticipate that it will take until at least 2023 or 2024 for passenger demand to recover to 2019 levels."
The damage inflicted on IAG's finances was clear in the second quarter when it plunged to an operating loss of €1.37 billion from a €960 million euro profit a year earlier.
Walsh has cut costs and increased liquidity, led by the planned rights issue, backed by IAG's biggest shareholder, Qatar Airways.
The increase in shares necessary for the capital increase was backed by more than 99% of votes.
The virtual format meant that Walsh received none of customary applause from shareholders.
However, he said that it has been "one hell of a journey", and that he is delighted that his replacement is a "natural successor" who has shown "world class" leadership at Iberia.
"No one could have imagined the challenge [Gallego] would face when he took up his new role", Walsh said, but he is confident that Gallego is "exactly the right man for the job".
One Final Hurdle
Walsh cleared one final hurdle - a non-binding vote on the directors' pay report for 2019, which included his bonus of £883,000.
The resolution received the backing of 71.6% of votes cast.