Saturday 25 May 2019

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary: Aer Lingus will break up no matter who owns it

Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus will eventually be "broken up" no matter who succeeds in buying it, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has predicted.

"Because of previous government submissions to the European competition authorities, no matter who buys Aer Lingus at this stage, it will broken up in some way, shape or form," he insisted, speaking at Ryanair's headquarters in Dublin yesterday.

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

His comments came as investors await a third offer from British Airways' owner IAG to buy Aer Lingus. Two indicative offers for the airline from IAG have already been rebuffed by the Aer Lingus board.

The last offer - at €2.40 per share - valued Aer Lingus at just under €1.3bn. Ryanair owns 29.8pc of Aer Lingus and the Government controls 25.1pc.

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

He insisted that Ryanair wouldn't be putting up 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.

The airline chief also said that there's a "national obsession" about the perceived importance of London's Heathrow airport that is "entirely misplaced".

He said that there's a belief that "without Heathrow we'll lose our connectivity to the civilised world and we'll just be some kind of backwater".

But he predicted that if IAG bought Aer Lingus, it would transfer the Heathrow slots British Airways uses to fly to Dublin to other services, reducing overall traffic capacity between Dublin and Heathrow.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said this week that maintaining connectivity and competition would be two of the important factors the Government would assess should a formal offer by IAG to buy Aer Lingus emerge.

Fianna Fail has called on the Government to block a sale of Aer Lingus.

Mr O'Leary also said that Ryanair could conceivably make a fourth bid for Aer Lingus. He acknowledged that such a move wouldn't be likely to succeed.

Irish Independent

Also in Business