Intro Aviation, the German company which bought CityJet from Air-France KLM in a bargain deal in 2014, has agreed to sell the airline to Mr Byrne and “an experienced” group of investors for an undisclosed fee.
The sale is understood to give Mr Byrne a considerable minority shareholding in the company — something he has welcomed having guided the company since returning as chairman in February 2015.
“I am delighted to be part of the ownership of the airline again,” said Mr Byrne.
“The change in ownership will give us access to the necessary capital to allow CityJet to move forward and continue the transformation. There are lots of profitable emerging opportunities in the European regional aircraft segment and CityJet is now well placed to take advantage of these.”
The Irish airline’s recovery has continued apace in the past 12 months having endured a number of lean years under the stewardship of Air France-KLM, which saw it run up large losses.
Wet leases, which see CityJet operate flights for other airlines using its own aircraft and staff, are a major part of its business that it has grown in the past year.
Last September, it signed a major wet lease contract with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to operate an extensive route network on its behalf.
To allow it undertake the contract, CityJet committed to buying eight new aircraft from Bombardier with options on an additional six — the first of which will be delivered in the coming days with subsequent deliveries continuing until June of this year.
CityJet also recently acquired Blue1 in Helsinki, a former subsidiary of SAS which now forms the backbone of CityJet’s operations in Scandinavia.
The airline is reportedly eyeing a flotation within three years, with revenues expected to jump to about €300m per annum in the next two years.
Its annual turnover in 2014 was €177m.
“I have enjoyed being part of CityJet’s development over the last two years,” said Intro Aviation managing director Peter Oncken. “It has taken a massive effort to change the airline from being an Air France operator to a stand-alone and independent airline in a highly competitive environment.”