Sunday 25 September 2016

NTMA is tightlipped about Aer Lingus fees

Published 14/07/2015 | 02:30

NTMA stays silent on fees paid out in regard to IAG takeover
NTMA stays silent on fees paid out in regard to IAG takeover

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has refused to disclose how much it is paying advisers it hired to help the Government decide whether to sell the State's 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus as part of a €1.36bn takeover bid by IAG.

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In response to a freedom of information request by the Irish Independent, the NTMA confirmed that it would not reveal how much of the taxpayers' money is being spent.

The NTMA hired the advisers on behalf of State agency NewERA, which it oversees, and which is responsible for managing the possible sale of State assets.

Those advisers are investment banking giant Credit Suisse and Dublin law firm McCann FitzGerald.

IBI Corporate Finance, a unit of Bank of Ireland, was engaged as a subcontractor to Credit Suisse in relation to the Aer Lingus sale.

The bill for the firms' contracts is likely to be very significant.

Government advisers dubbed their work on the possible Aer Lingus sale 'Project Egret'.

The NTMA told the Irish Independent: "The payments of fees under these contracts is based on the achievement of certain milestones, including, inter alia, completion of the transaction. No payments have been made to date."

The agency said that it was refusing to reveal details of how much the taxpayer would pay for the firms' services, by invoking clauses in freedom of information legislation.

Those clauses include the assertion that releasing the information would have a "significant, adverse effect on the performance of an FOI (Freedom of Information) body"; that doing so would "constitute a breach of duty of confidence"; and that "access to a record could reasonably be expected to result in an unwarranted benefit or loss to a person or class of persons".

The NTMA hired the advisers in January after British Airways' owner IAG, headed by Willie Walsh, made an approach to buy Aer Lingus last December.

There was a considerable amount of work involved in assessing the takeover approach as well as hammering out a deal with IAG that would be acceptable to the Government. The Government also had to liaise with Brussels to ensure that any deal agreed between it and IAG wouldn't fall foul of competition rules.

The Government announced in May that it would sell the State's Aer Lingus stake to IAG, having secured a number of agreements, related to issues such as the future use of Heathrow take-off and landing slots, employment and leaving the Government with a 'golden share' to enable it to veto any possible future sale of Aer Lingus Heathrow slots.

The State will receive €341.8m for its Aer Lingus stake, based on IAG's offer price of €2.55 per share, which includes a five cent a share dividend that has already been paid by Aer Lingus.

Last week, Ryanair said that it would sell its 29.8pc stake in Aer Lingus to IAG. Gulf airline Etihad will also sell its near 5pc stake in the Irish airline to IAG.

Aer Lingus shareholders will vote on Thursday on the IAG offer. The European Commission is due to say by tomorrow if it will clear the takeover.

Irish Independent

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