State will not sell Aer Lingus stake unless independence guaranteed
THE Government will only sell its 25pc stake in Aer Lingus to an airline that can guarantee its independence from arch-rival Ryanair, the airline's chief executive said yesterday.
Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller said the Government would not sell its Aer Lingus stake, valued at about €150m, to Ryanair because it would crush competition.
Ryanair already owns nearly 30pc of Aer Lingus and chief executive Michael O'Leary said recently he remained interested in buying Aer Lingus despite two failed bids.
"The Government needs to make sure we are not taken over by Ryanair, because only two air carriers guarantee that the fares from London to Dublin remain very low," Mr Mueller told Reuters yesterday.
"They will only sell to a party which guarantees the independence of Aer Lingus," Mr Mueller said on the sidelines of a business conference in Dublin.
"I have no other information than that and we talk to them regularly. They are very pleased the share price is coming up and that we create value for the Government at this time," Mr Mueller added.
In a speech at an IBEC-sponsored conference in Dublin, Mr Mueller said the airline would post a 2010 profit. The airline would give further details about the profit either today or tomorrow, he added.
Britain's Office of Fair Trading launched an investigation last week into Ryanair's stake in Aer Lingus, which Mr O'Leary subsequently called "a wild goose chase".
Mr Mueller said the probe was credible. The chief executive also said he was exploring closer links with an Asian airline to give Aer Lingus access to markets in the region.