Business Irish

Friday 28 October 2016

Aer Lingus sale moves closer as deal for Heathrow slots edges towards resolution

Donal O'Donovan and Daniel McConnell

Published 16/04/2015 | 13:14

Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus

A deal to sell Aer Lingus has moved closer as the deadlock of between the Irish government and Willie Walsh's IAG over the Heathrow slots edges towards resolution .

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Agreement on guarantees that the slots be retained long term for Irish routes would pave the way for a sale of Aer Lingus Group.

Shares in Aer Lingus shot up almost pc today to €2.39 each,  but are still below the takeover offer price.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said talks about the  potential sale of the Government's stake in Aer Lingus remain ongoing but will be completed in the coming weeks.

Speaking at an event in Dublin, he said: "I gave an update to the Cabinet yesterday that discussions are continuing with IAG. I emphasised to my colleagues that this is a matter I want to draw to conclusion soon," he said.

"It has been ongoing for a while, it is a complicated issue which is very important for the development of Aer Lingus and to our country. Whatever decision is made, I want it to be the right one for both and I anticipate that in the coming weeks we will be in a position to do so."

Asked whether the talks have stalled on a lack of agreement on Heathrow slots and commitments on jobs, Mr Donohoe said: "They continue to be matters that are very important. I rejected the potential bid because I was not satisfied that the recognition of the slots and how they would be protected and how commitments in relation to jobs and how they would be delivered."

"These are the areas that are crucial for the Government and the areas we are actively working on," he said.

He said the talks with the unions are not a matter for him.

Mr Donohoe defended the length of time the process has taken,  saying given the size of the deal and the importance of the company to the country, it was justified.

The minister added: "This is a takeover of €1.4bn, in relation to a company which is one of the largest of any kind in our country.

"I will take care with any decision that I make. Even before it got to the point that the Government had to deal with it, there were a number of approaches to the Aer Lingus company alone," he added.

"We will take care to do the right thing and this is understood by everyone involved in the process."

Mr Donohoe said he would not be tied down to any specific deadline for fear that it would not be met.

The minister said the steering group appointed by him to liaise with IAG  has not yet made a recommendation to him on the proposed bid.

"The reason for that is that our contact with IAG is ongoing but they will be making a recommendation to me and I expect that to happen in the next few weeks." 

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