A LEGAL action by Aer Lingus aimed at preventing Ryanair issuing another takeover bid for the national carrier will be heard next month.
Aer Lingus claims it has incurred some €40m costs in defending Ryanair's bids to date and faces incurring further costs as a result of the restriction imposed on its commercial activities due to such takeover attempts.
In its Commercial Court action, it is challenging a ruling by the Irish Takeover Panel to the effect Ryanair had to wait 12 months after its August 2012 takeover bid before it could make another bid.
Aer Lingus had sought a ruling no such bid could be launched before February 2014, 12 months after the European Commission's decision blocking the Ryanair bid was made.
It is alleged the Panel's ruling has major commercial implications for Aer Lingus as, when the airline is within an offer period governing takeover rulings, it is very significantly restrained in its commercial operations.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly today agreed to an Aer Lingus request to fast-track the case to the Commercial Court and fixed it for hearing on July 18.
The action arises from Ryanair's €694m bid to win control of Aer Lingus. That offer, Ryanair's third bid for its rival, was formally tabled in late July 2012 but was blocked last February by the European Commission which said the proposed merger would harm consumers by creating a dominant company on 46 routes where both airlines are competing.
Aer Lingus argues the Panel's ruling is wrong in law and the panel acted irrationally in leaving it subject to repeated offer periods.
Ryanair, and a subsidiary Coinside Ltd, through which the bid for Aer Lingus was made, are notice parties to the case.
Ryanair is Aer Lingus' biggest shareholder with a 30pc stake.
The Government, holder of a 25pc stake, also opposed Ryanair's bid.