Irish

Monday 28 July 2014

End of an era as O Ceidigh quits Aer Arann

John Mulligan

Published 25/01/2013|05:00

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Padraig O Ceidigh – the Galwayman synonymous with Aer Arann for nearly 20 years – has ended his association with the airline, resigning as a director and chairman of the group.

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It marks the end of an era for Aer Arann and Mr O Ceidigh, who acquired a majority stake in the carrier in 1994 and became a beacon for entrepreneurs in Ireland and abroad.

Severing his links with Aer Arann comes just as UK transport group Stobart has secured complete control of the airline.

Stobart invested in the carrier just over two years ago as part of a deal to help Aer Arann exit examinership.

Aer Arann got into severe financial difficulties that were exacerbated by the Icelandic volcanic eruption in 2010.

Its creditors were owed close to €30m. The airline had lost €6m in 2008, the same amount in 2009, and had lost another €6m in the first eight months of 2010.

A rescue package included investment from Mr O Ceidigh, Stobart and Tim Kilroe Jnr, the son of former Aer Arann majority owner Tim Kilroe Snr.

But Stobart subsequently moved to take full ownership of the airline. Before Christmas, the Competition Authority cleared a planned transaction where Stobart would acquire sole control of Aer Arann.

Mr O Ceidigh was not contactable yesterday. However, it is understood that he ended his involvement with Aer Arann primarily for personal reasons. Aer Arann declined to comment yesterday, but is expected to make an announcement next week.

Control

That announcement is likely to confirm Stobart's complete control of Aer Arann and an update of its strategy for the carrier. Stobart owns London Southend Airport and is the UK's biggest logistic firm. Aer Arann operates flight between Southend and Dublin. It recently terminated services from Waterford.

Early this week, there was a boardroom coup at Stobart that was backed by major shareholders. The company is now lining up to sell some of its businesses, but Aer Arann could be seen as a good strategic fit for the group.

Last year, Aer Arann stopped using its own name on its small clutch of aircraft. That decision came just over two years after it inked an agreement with Aer Lingus to operate some Aer Arann flights under the 'Aer Lingus Regional' brand. All Aer Arann flights now fly under the 'Aer Lingus Regional' banner.

Aer Arann, whose interim chief executive is Sean Brogan, has also been eyeing up fresh investment in aircraft.

The most recent traffic figures from Aer Lingus show that Aer Lingus Regional carried 84,000 passengers in December – 34pc more than it did in December 2011.

It carried a total of 1.01 million passengers last year, a third more than it did in 2011. That is close to 10pc of the total carried by Aer Lingus.

Irish Independent

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