Emirates valued at $40bn if it went public, says founding CEO

Sir Maurice Flanagan says an IPO had been discussed for a decade but Sheikh Mohammed was not keen on the idea
Emirates valued at $40bn if it went public, says founding CEO
By Neil Halligan
Wed 21 Jan 2015 02:56 PM

Dubai’s Emirates Airline would be worth $40 billion in if it went public, according to the founding CEO Sir Maurice Flanagan.

The retired former Emirates vice chairman was speaking at the Capital Club’s ‘People who shaped Dubai series’ about his career and how he started one of the world’s most successful airlines.

Asked if he thought the airline would consider going public, Sir Maurice said if it did it would end any discussion about the airline being subsidised by the Dubai government.

“That's been hanging around for ten years at least, to my knowledge. I think Sheikh Mohammed doesn’t like the idea,” he said.

“It would be good in some ways because if it went public they would have to publish more statistics - but actually Emirates is one of the most transparent ones in the industry. But if it went public, it would be very, very clear that Emirates is not subsidised and there are no advantages from the government. It's treated just like any other airline that is in Dubai. That would become rather more clear,” he said.

The former CEO, who stepped down as vice chairman two years ago, said the last estimates he saw valued the company at $40 billion – four times what it would have been worth in 2012, when it was previously mooted.

“The last figures I saw had Emirates worth something like $40 billion if it went public. Emirates has just overtaken Delta as the second biggest airline in the world, by all the usual measures. The only bigger one is the combination of American and United. They're too big. Airline economies of scale go in reverse after a certain point,” said Sir Maurice.

Flanagan was introduced on the night by Mark Beer, chairman of the Capital Club's events committee, who described the former Emirates chief as “one of the few living legends in our lifetime”.

“We, all of us who love Dubai, would be living in a very different place if it wasn't for Sir Maurice and all that he has done in dnata and Emirates. He has been described as a pioneer of aviation in the UAE - a man who with a small team, built a vast and broad business which is now the envy of the world,” said Beer.

“In May 1985, oil contributed half of Dubai's economy, and the economy was $15 billion.

In 1985, no-one knew anything about Dubai. Fast forward to today - oil is fraction of the economy, which is now $107 billion and the world knows about Dubai, because of Maurice,” he added.

Sir Maurice was the third guest in the series hosted by the Capital Club. The fourth and last in the current series will see Jumeirah Group President and Group CEO Gerald Lawless speak about how he shaped one of the world’s premier luxury hotel brands.

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