Business Irish

Saturday 20 January 2018

Aer Lingus sale: IAG intent on pursuing €1.4bn acquisition, Willie Walsh meeting unions

Willie Walsh - whose appearance before the Oireachtas Committee was 'long overdue'
Willie Walsh - whose appearance before the Oireachtas Committee was 'long overdue'
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

IAG appears intent on pursing its €1.4bn acquisition of Aer Lingus, with Willie Walsh intending to meet union representatives on Friday next week.

At that meeting, the IAG boss and new Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh are expected to further detail the takeover plan and how it could impact employment and overall growth at the Irish airline.

Unions have been meeting Mr Kavanagh this morning to discuss Aer Lingus financial results for 2014, which were released earlier this week. Those talks have also included discussions regarding the IAG takeover plan.

That Mr Walsh has pencilled in another meeting for March 6 with union representatives is hugely significant.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said earlier this week that the Government still wasn’t satisfied with the overall IAG approach to buy Aer Lingus.

He said the Government wanted extended commitments for the use of Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow to serve only Irish routes beyond the five years that has already been offered by IAG.

Willie Walsh has pledged to create 635 net new jobs at Aer Lingus by 2020 and also to launch new routes to North America from Dublin. He said IAG would also bring an extra 2.5 million passengers to Ireland by 2020.

The Government wants more specific details on how employment at Aer Lingus will be impacted. It also wants to know how IAG might grow business at Cork, Shannon and Knock.

The additional demands led to speculation that IAG could either drop its intended bid altogether, or decide to take a hostile approach in its efforts to buy Aer Lingus.

Such a hostile move – where IAG might attempt to buy all but the Government’s 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus – would be a hugely risky strategy, however.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan insisted yesterday that a deal with IAG remains possible.

“A deal certainly isn’t off the table and those participating will look at it on commercial grounds not political grounds,” he said.

IAG releases its financial results for 2014 tomorrow. Mr Walsh will be pressed by investors on what he intends to do in relation to a bid for Aer Lingus.

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