| 13.1°C Dublin

Aer Lingus sale: Nothing’s been decided Gilmore tells the Dail

NO decision has been made by the government on selling its 25pc share in Aer Lingus, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said today.

And no decision had been made about the percentage of the ESB shareholding to be sold, he told the Dail this morning.

Reports today said the government was set to sign off on the controversial sale of its 25pc share in Aer Lingus.

As part of the strict austerity measures, the sale could net the exchequer €89 million at current market rates.

The IMF last week suggested that Ireland should raise €5bn instead of €2bn, as set out in the Programme for Government. Funds raised in selling the shares in the national flag carrier is seen as necessary to meet such a bill.

The Irish Times reported that the government had decided to undertake an analysis of the value of this stake and the potential interest from airline groups and other investors.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar last week indicated that Aer Lingus was on a list of State assets that could be sold. After the list was presented to the cabinet, they decided to push ahead with the sale of the Government's share’s in the airliner.

“What I can say is that the Aer Lingus stake was held for strategic reasons and having studied the matter over the summer, I don’t think that really stands anymore,” said the Minister.

Experts have speculated that interested parties in the sale may include Air France, Germany’s Lufthansa, and International Airline Group, the holding company for British Airways and Iberia, which is run by former Aer Lingus chief executive Willie Walsh.

If the sale were to proceed, clauses that would protect Aer Lingus’s valuable Heathrow slots being used for access to Irish airports may be introduced. Such slots are considered a primary asset of any airline.

“We have a 25pc stake. You actually need 30pc to block any changes on slots. More and more people are using other connections other than Heathrow,” Mr. Varadkar told Newstalk radio.

Speculation that Ryanair, who currently own a 29.8pc share in Aer Lingus, may tender a bid for the Government’s stake was dismissed yesterday in a statement issued by the budget-airliner. A bid for the State’s share would not be tendered “if any such offer would be regarded as unwelcome”, according to Ryanair.

“Ryanair would welcome another financially strong airline/investor acquiring the government’s 25 percent stake, which could then work with Ryanair and other like-minded shareholders to restore shareholder value, which has been destroyed over the past five years by the board and management of Aer Lingus.”

The airline went on to say that they would consider selling its stake in Aer Lingus if the bid went through.