Sunday 22 April 2018

Ryanair boss threatens vote over 'Aer Lingus-gate'

QUESTIONS: Michael O'Leary
QUESTIONS: Michael O'Leary
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Ryanair is threatening to call a shareholders' vote if Aer Lingus does not release the consultant's report into the controversial "leave-and-rehire" scheme that saw the former national airline forced to pay €30m to settle a Revenue bill incurred when it re-employed staff that it had taken off its books.

The dispute between the airlines has erupted into outright war over a remarkable couple of days, which saw Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller and Ryanair's Howard Millar square up to each other at an investors meeting in London.

Last Thursday Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary wrote to Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington calling for the report compiled by consultancy firm Deloitte and lawyers McCann Fitzgerald to be released to shareholders.

"If we get ignored we'll call an EGM and put it to a vote," Mr O'Leary told the Sunday Independent last week.

While Ryanair has been generally supportive of Aer Lingus in shareholder voting, it did oppose the re-election of ICTU boss David Begg to the board.

Aer Lingus has said that it would not publish the report on legal advice, leading Ryanair to label the controversy "Aer Lingus-gate".

Ryanair has also called for the payment of a special dividend and further clarity over the massive pension fund deficit at Aer Lingus.

It is thought that the Aer Lingus pension fund deficit has risen sharply and could be as much as €700m -- far more than previously expected.

Fears that Aer Lingus would plug the deficit using its own money have made the future of the airline look increasingly wobbly. The Government is seeking to sell its 25 per cent stake, with Ryanair also indicating that it would off load its 29 per cent share in the company. However, the uncertainty over funding of the pension scheme has led British Airways boss Willie Walsh to distance himself from any bid for the company.

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