Sunday 25 September 2016

Donohoe denies working group report on Aer Lingus sale was submitted

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Published 17/04/2015 | 15:00

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

TRANSPORT Minister Paschal Donohoe has rejected suggestions that the Government’s working group has submitted a report about the sale of Aer Lingus to him.

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It has been reported that the Government’s interdepartmental group of senior civil servants are close to issuing a recommendation to Mr Donohoe to sell the airline.

However, Mr Donohoe speaking at an event in Dublin today said he has not yet received a final report and is not yet in a position to bring a recommendation to Cabinet.

He said: “I have not received a final reports from the interdepartmental group. When I do receive them, they will then give me a basis to make my decision. I receive one report at the end of this process which I will then bring to cabinet. That will inform the decision I make. It will go to cabinet soon.”

He said the commercial review of the value of the slots at Heathrow was not yet complete, despite some informed suggestions to the contrary.

“That work is ongoing at the moment and I will be receiving a report into that in the near future. And we have always acknowledged and made clear that the value of the slots and their maintenance is a hugely important consideration of any bid,” he said.

Mr Donohoe strongly defended the drawn out process saying it is important to get it done right rather than done in a hurry.

Mr Donohoe, speaking at an event in Dublin, said: “Many people have sought to impose a timeline on me. We are the ones that have a case being put to us. Others are encouraging us to sell. We are going to act in the manner which is consistently with the long term interests of Aer Lingus and the country. It is important to do it right than do it in a hurry.”

He was speaking after the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would not change an order for Ryanair to sell down its 30pc stake in rival Aer Lingus because of IAG's proposed bid for Aer Lingus. Ryanair had asked the CMA to reconsider its 2013 decision.

The airline said the fact that IAG had secured support from the Aer Lingus board for the €1.4 billion bid disproved the regulator's argument that its shareholding might be an obstacle to Aer Lingus being acquired by another airline. The CMA published a provisional verdict this morning.

This said that as British Airways owner IAG has made its bid conditional on securing Ryanair's support, the low budget airline remains a significant hurdle to any merger.

Ryanair has described the CMA's provisional decision as "manifestly wrong".

Responding to the CMA verdict, Mr Donohoe said: “Well the cause of this review from the competition and mergers authority was the contention by Ryanair that the bid by IAG constituted a material change in circumstances.”

“What the commission have stated today is that it does not. I know that in the proposed by from IAG, it was made clear that their bid was contingent on Ryanair selling its share,” he added.

“The Government view of Aer Lingus and the future of Aer Lingus is that we believe it is very important that you have continued competition on key routes for our country.  We believe the IAG bid did not constitute a change of circumstance on that,” he added.

Again pressed by reporters as to the delays in the process being completed, Mr Donohoe said: “There has been a huge amount of commentary as to the timing of this as to when this work will be completed.”

“I have maintained since a number of weeks ago that this is a matter that should be brought to a conclusion soon. That it is a very big decision for our country and a matter of huge importance to Aer Lingus and this is a matter that I will be bringing a recommendation on to Cabinet  now in the coming weeks,” the Dublin Central TD said.

“I am not going to say what week or what date it will be.  This is a very fluid matter, as the events of today have demonstrated. There are things happening in relation to it that do have an effect on Aer Lingus and the developments in aviation. But it is a matter that I will be bringing to conclusion soon.  The interdepartmental group continue to have discussions with IAG as to their proposal and this matter will come to a conclusion soon,” he added.

Speaking earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:  "The Minister for Tourism has been dealing with this in a very regular basis. He’s not in a position yet to come to Government with a final recommendation and he said he would hope to be able to do that in the next couple of weeks. So obviously there are still discussions taking place in regard to a number of those matters."

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