Friday 22 February 2019

IAG boss shrugs off Branson and Trump Aer Lingus takeover warning

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh with Ruth Curran, managing partner, Merc Partners, before a Merc Partners business leaders’ breakfast
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh with Ruth Curran, managing partner, Merc Partners, before a Merc Partners business leaders’ breakfast

Colm Kelpie

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has taken a swipe at US billionaire Donald Trump and Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson for their criticism of the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.

"I would be more interested by the interventions of those in Ireland who understand the issue," he said.

Mr Walsh also said he's in no hurry to seal a deal on Aer Lingus.

But he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding a potential sale could be a distraction for management at the former flag carrier. Mr Walsh said IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has nothing to hide in its pursuit of Aer Lingus and claimed the company had been clear about its interests.

"We've nothing to hide. We've been very clear about our interests in relation to Aer Lingus," Mr Walsh said, on the margins of a breakfast event yesterday organised by head-hunting consultants Merc Partners.

"I think our interests are very genuine and we believe that Aer Lingus will flourish as part of IAG.

"We want to acquire Aer Lingus within IAG to grow it."

IAG is bidding for Aer Lingus, which has been valued at €1.4bn, but has yet to win over both the Government, as the State holds a 25.1pc stake, and trade unions, which have accused IAG of giving vague assurances.


The proposed sale has attracted international attention from Mr Trump, who owns Doonbeg Golf Course in Co Clare, and Mr Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic has said it will contact the European Commission over concerns that the IAG deal would adversely impact on competition.

But Mr Walsh yesterday dismissed the concerns of both men. "I don't think their position should influence," he said.

He said it would be very interesting for Virgin to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to explain their interests in the Irish market.

And he said he was in "no hurry" to reach a deal, adding IAG would spend time to "get to the right decision".

But he added he recognised that the uncertainty around the potential sale may be distracting for Aer Lingus management.

"I recognise that others have expressed an interest in seeing it resolved sooner rather than later and I can understand that," he said.

"From an Aer Lingus point of view, the uncertainty may well be a distraction to the management in the business," he added.

But he added: "It's not in anyway distracting me from what I need to do, in terms of running IAG. We're prepared to take whatever time is necessary."

Mr Walsh said the discussions with the Government has addressed all of the concerns flagged by Transport Minister Pascal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe said a decision on the takeover would be made "within weeks".

Irish Independent

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