All to play for as potential bidders line up for shot at takeover
AER Lingus has a market capitalisation of €512m, making it far smaller than any potential buyer.
Though publicly listed it is controlled by a small number of key shareholders, the largest of whom is Ryanair with 29.8pc. The Government has another 25pc, while unions control 12.47pc of shares.
Aer Lingus shows signs of real improvement in trading and has some very attractive assets, including the fourth- highest number of Heathrow landing slots of any airline, a strong brand in both the US and Europe and, not least, cash in the bank.
Analysts reckon BA/Iberia is the most likely partner for Aer Lingus.
The airlines are due to complete a merger this year and are established operators beyond their home markets in the UK and Spain. They have a combined market cap of close to €6bn. The airlines are part of the One World alliance that includes Qantas and Japan Airlines.
Local rival Ryanair has a market cap of €5.9bn and has no alliances with other airlines. The low cost airline, as Aer Lingus's biggest stakeholder, has the power to block any takeover bid but has been prevented from buying its once bigger rival because of the dominance a combination would have on the Irish market.
They might have the money for a bid but Air France/KLM or Lufthansa are seen as outsiders to bid at this stage.
Any buyer of Aer Lingus would want to channel Irish passengers to their home hubs and on to their own long-haul flights, but given the extra hour from Shannon, Cork or Dublin to Paris or beyond, passenger resistance would come into play.
For the record, Air France/KLM has a market cap of €3.38bn and is part of the SkyTeam alliance that includes Delta and Korean Air and is soon to be joined by China Airlines.
Lufthansa, with a market cap of €6bn, is a member of the Star alliance that includes Continental Airlines, SAS and Air Singapore.