Tuesday 21 November 2017

Newsmaker - Michael O'Leary is rarely out of the news...

Michael O'Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair
Michael O'Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair

Which makes his silence on IAG's bid for Aer Lingus all the stranger.

The airline boss may break that silence at a press conference in Dublin scheduled for this morning or sometime later in the week.

While his intentions remain unclear, the Ryanair boss has said that his Irish heart wishes Aer Lingus could remain independent or Irish-owned but he believes the rival airline needs to be part of a bigger group.

O'Leary's response to the bid will be fascinating. As the biggest shareholder, he stands to make or lose the most if the bid goes through. The sale of a 29pc stake in Aer Lingus on the open market will be much more difficult then the sale of the stake to a single shareholder.

In an interview with the Irish Independent last week, O'Leary said Aer Lingus will eventually be "broken up" no matter who succeeds in buying it.

"The Irish Government has been so blinkered in its approach to this in the last five or six years," O'Leary claimed.

O'Leary added for good measure that previous governments hadn't taken a strategic view of what was best for Irish airlines over the next 20 or 30 years.

He also insisted that Ryanair wouldn't be hiking prices if it had bought Aer Lingus.

"We are Lidl and Aldi here. We do not get a monopoly and put up prices because we're too busy trying to double the size of the operation in the next five or 10 years," he said.

While the airline chief dismissed what he termed a "national obsession" about the perceived importance of London's Heathrow airport, he still predicted that those slots would be sold if IAG gets Aer Lingus.

Always the maverick, O'Leary even said that Ryanair could conceivably make a fourth bid for Aer Lingus. He acknowledged that such a move wouldn't be likely to succeed.

That might be a pleasant pipe dream for O'Leary but it is impossible at this stage, which means that the future of Ryanair's stake in the national airline remains a mystery.

Previous comments suggest that O'Leary will say this week that he wants to sell to IAG but the deal looks less likely by the day thanks to political opposition. What we really need to know is his Plan B.

Irish Independent

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