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Aer Lingus sale will herald cash windfall for its stakeholders


Christoph Mueller

Christoph Mueller

Colm Barrington

Colm Barrington


Christoph Mueller

There will be plenty of winners from a takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG, with the €1.36bn price tag being divvied up among shareholders including the Government, Ryanair, workers and Gulf airline Etihad.

With a 25.1pc stake the Government is set for a €335m windfall, while Ryanair will get €398m, effectively getting its money back.

Etihad will book a big profit from its investment in Aer Lingus. Between 2012 and 2014, the Abu Dhabi-based airline paid a total of €32.5m for its 4.9pc stake in Aer Lingus.

Selling to IAG will see it get €65.4m, meaning it will have more than doubled the value of its original investment.

Executives at Aer Lingus will also benefit from the sale.

Outgoing chairman Colm Barrington revealed to the Oireachtas Transport Committee in February that he has bought shares in the airline, sometimes against the advice of his wife.

"I bought my 300,000 shares over the past six years, sometimes when the prospects of the company didn't look great, and sometimes against the strong discouragement of my wife," he said.

"If this deal happens, I'll make some money out of those shares, which I'll be very happy with, but it was a risky investment by me at the time of my own after-tax euro. I've ensured it didn't influence my thinking about this transaction."

He will get €750,000 for those shares if the deal goes ahead at the price IAG has indicated.

Stephen Kavanagh, an Aer Lingus insider who was named chief executive earlier this year, said he owns about 280,000 shares in IAG following 26 years of service. He will get €700,000 for those shares under an IAG takeover.

Even IAG boss Willie Walsh will get a payout. A former Aer Lingus chief executive, he has 10,616 shares in the Irish airline. At €2.50 each, he'll get €26,500.

Former Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller could also make millions from a sale. He owned almost 710,000 Aer Lingus shares at the end of last year. But despite leaving the airline, he also still holds about 1 million share options which will be automatically exercised on foot of a takeover. In total, he could get as much as €4.3m following a sale to IAG.

Controversially, Aer Lingus executives could share millions of euro following a sale to IAG if a bonus share scheme kicks in. Executives at Aer Lingus have millions of shares issued under a long-term incentive scheme that they are typically allocated gradually over a period of years if they achieve certain targets. But the Aer Lingus remuneration committee can automatically hand them over to executives if the airline is to be sold. However, there would be uproar if that happened.

Many Aer Lingus workers also hold shares, but some only a few hundred euro worth. In 2010, 66 million shares were also distributed by the airline's employee share ownership trust (ESOT) to 4,700 members.

That equated to just over 14,000 shares each. About half those ESOT members still worked for Aer Lingus at the time. At €2.50 a share, those individual holdings would be worth €35,000.

Irish Independent