Wednesday 17 January 2018

Aer Lingus sale: IAG boss Willie Walsh says he's in no rush for Government decision

Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus

John Mulligan and Philip Ryan

IAG boss Willie Walsh said he's in no rush for the Government to make a decision on a possible sale of Aer Lingus.

Speaking today before he addressed a luncheon for the Chartered Accountants Leinster Society, he said that the IAG board remains fully behind the takeover plan.

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.

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

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 told the audience today that IAG believes in consolidation within the airline industry.

"Our vision is to be a multinational, multi-brand airline group," he said.

He added that IAG sees a significant growth opportunity for growth in transatlantic traffic to North America.

Aer Lingus has expanded its services to North America, with new routes to cities including Toronto, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail has questioned whether the Labour Party is taking seriously concerns among its members after it emerged the Government is waiting for Ryanair to declare its intentions around its shareholding in Aer Lingus before the Cabinet makes a decision.

The Irish Independent revealed the Cabinet will only make a decision on the State’s 25.1pc share in Aer Lingus after Ryanair decides if it will sell some of its stake in the airline.

The UK’s competition watchdog recently ruled that Ryanair should reduce its 29.8pc share in Aer Lingus by at least 5pc. Ryanair appealed the decision and threatened to sue the watchdog if it does not reverse the ruling.

Tánaiste Joan Burton, whose party passed a motion rejecting a previous bid from Willie Walsh’s airline company IAG, last weekend admitted there are “ongoing issues” around Ryanair’s share in Aer Lingus.

Today, Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said Ms Burton’s comments “exposed the lack of genuine concern within the Labour Party about maintaining a strategic national interest in Aer Lingus”.

“It is very disappointing to hear that Labour and the Cabinet are prepared to take their cue on Aer Lingus from Ryanair.  Not only is Ryanair a competitor of Aer Lingus it is a major shareholder and will make its decisions based on commercial interest not national interest,” Mr Dooley said.

He added: “The Labour Party should be making its decisions as part of the Government in the long-term interests of the country and shouldn’t be waiting to a get a steer on what direction it should go from Ryanair.



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