Thursday 8 December 2016

Walsh in 'no rush' with Aer Lingus bid

Published 21/05/2015 | 02:30

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh at the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society’s lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday. Picture: Tom Burke
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh at the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society’s lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday. Picture: Tom Burke

IAG boss Willie Walsh has insisted he is in no rush for the Government to make a decision on a possible sale of Aer Lingus as the saga rumbles into its sixth month.

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"I'm in no hurry," he said, before speaking yesterday at a lunch for the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society at Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel.

"I'm perfectly relaxed about the timing. It's not putting any pressure on me. I have a small team of people dedicated to it and they remain on call and we'll wait and see what happens," said Mr Walsh.

IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia, has indicated it wants to buy Aer Lingus for €1.36bn, having first approached the Irish airline last December. Mr Walsh said the board of IAG was "very happy" to continue with the takeover process.

"There are no issues there. They're very supportive of this. This is a deal we would like to do and we remain in that position."

The Government controls 25.1pc of Aer Lingus while Ryanair owns close to 30pc.

The Government has sought a number of guarantees from IAG, on issues such as employment and the future use of take-off and landing slots at Heathrow Airport, before it makes any decision on a possible sale.

For IAG to make a formal offer to buy Aer Lingus, it also needs an irrevocable undertaking from Ryanair that it will also sell its stake to IAG.

Ryanair is currently battling the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, which has ordered Ryanair to cut its stake in Aer Lingus to no more than 5pc.

A Government steering group advising in the possible sale of the Government stake, has yet to deliver a final report to the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Walsh said that management at Aer Lingus have done a "very good job" in what has been a difficult economic environment. IAG wants to buy Aer Lingus to help grow its transatlantic traffic to North America by feeding passengers from the UK through Dublin.

Aer Lingus has already had considerable success doing that, and Paris is now the biggest source for transfer passengers travelling via Ireland to the United States with the airline.

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Heathrow Airport is currently working at virtually full capacity and even if a third runway is built there, it could be years before it materialises.

Mr Walsh said he doesn't expect it to happen before 2050.

That means that Dublin in increasing attractive as a way of boosting transatlantic passenger numbers.

Aer Lingus, which is headed by chief executive Stephen Kavanagh, will unveil its winter schedule this morning, which will include further details of its additional flights to Chicago over the season.

"The United States is a very encouraging market," said Mr Walsh.

"We've always said that the US represents a great opportunity, not just for IAG, but for Aer Lingus given the network that they have developed."

He said the benefit of having US customs and immigration pre-clearance at Dublin and Shannon is an advantage that no-one else in Europe has.

"We believe that can be built on," he said.

Watch: TRAVEL TV: First look inside the new Aer Lingus Business Class

Irish Independent

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