Sunday 22 January 2017

Aer Lingus sale negotiations have taken too long - chairman

Published 02/05/2015 | 02:30

Colm Barrington
Colm Barrington

Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington has revealed his frustration at the time the Government has taken to make a decision on whether or not it will sell the State's 25.1pc stake in the airline to IAG.

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"We're disappointed it has taken so long," he told the Irish Independent after the Aer Lingus annual general meeting at Dublin Airport yesterday.

"We're certainly hopeful that it will get resolved and that it will get resolved positively."

Mr Barrington added: "It's taken up a lot of our management time. It has been a distraction for management too, and disruptive for employees because they don't know who their employer is going to be.

"It would be good to get it resolved sooner rather than later. It has gone on a bit longer than it should have done."

The Irish Independent understands that the possible Aer Lingus sale will not be discussed by the Cabinet next Wednesday when it has its post-bank holiday weekend meeting.

Transport Minister Pashcal Donohoe said this week that a decision would be made "in coming weeks".

But it is increasingly likely that the matter will be decided the following Tuesday by the Government.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh also said this week that he expects the matter to come to a conclusion within the next two weeks. That will bring to an end nearly five months of uncertainty about the future of Aer Lingus, which IAG wants to buy for €1.36bn.

Should the Government decide to sell and assuming the Dáil votes in favour of the deal, and Ryanair agrees to sell its near 30pc stake in Aer Lingus, it would probably be early autumn before a takeover could be sealed.

The takeover would also have to be scrutinised by Brussels.

The Aer Lingus annual general meeting held yesterday would be its last ever as a public company should IAG succeed in acquiring it.

Mr Barrington is also retiring from his role as chairman in September, after seven years in the position.

However, it's understood that no active search has begun for a replacement.

"It's very hard to appoint a new chairman when you don't know who the owner's going to be," said Mr Barrington.

Although he's retiring as Aer Lingus chairman, Mr Barrington is continuing as chief executive of aircraft leasing firm FlyLeasing.

Capacity

Some shareholders expressed dissatisfaction at yesterday's meeting at the proposed sale of Aer Lingus, which the airline's board has backed.

Mr Barrington said that Aer Lingus also intends to continue expanding its long-haul services to North America next year, after increasing capacity on those services by 13pc this year.

He said a number of possible routes could be opened, including a relaunch of a service between Dublin and Los Angeles, or services to cities such as Philadelphia on the east coast.

The airline launched its Dublin-Washington DC service yesterday. It will operate four times a week.

Irish Independent

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