Business Irish

Wednesday 29 March 2017

State stake in Aer Lingus not in assets review

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

THE Government has excluded its 25pc stake in Aer Lingus from a review of which state assets should be sold to help reduce the €84bn national debt.

Economist Colm McCarthy has been charged with running the rule over state assets and recommending which ones are ripe for sale and which ones can be tweaked to generate more value.

A preliminary list was published by the Department of Finance last week and featured semi-state enterprises RTE, the ESB, the Dublin Airport Authority, Bord Gais and Bord na Mona.

A spokesman for the department confirmed that the Government's 25pc stake in Aer Lingus -- valued at €130m by Friday's closing price -- would not appear on a future draft of the list.

"With Aer Lingus it would be a straightforward commercial decision -- do you sell at this price or not," he said. "We're just a shareholder so you couldn't do a review of whether you can get better value for more from it or operate it more efficiently, or use it to do things for economic growth."

A spokesman for Aer Lingus declined to comment on the "hypothetical" suggestion of a possible government sale of its stake in the airline.

When Ryanair was mounting its second bid for Aer Lingus it made much of the potential exchequer gain that could flow from the Government accepting a bid for its share.

A Ryanair spokesman stopped short of calling on it to include the stake in the review, saying, "when they are ready for us to take it off their hands they will approach us directly".

The European Commission recently ruled out a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus.

Irish Independent

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