Business

Monday 23 October 2017

Ryanair wide open for bidding for Aer Lingus stake

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

RYANAIR has offered to “unconditionally” sell its 29pc shareholding in Aer Lingus to any other European airline that makes a bid for the carrier.

Ryanair said it would sell its stake as way of appeasing UK competition authority chiefs.

The carrier has held the minority stake for more than six years and has made a number of failed takeover bids.

In May the UK’s Competition Commission claimed that Ryanair’s stake gives the “airline the ability to influence the commercial policy and strategy” of Aer Lingus.

In a statement to the Irish Stock Exchange, Ryanair said it was making the offer to dispel the CC's “unfounded and invented "concern" that Ryanair's shareholding may prevent Aer Lingus from being acquired by another EU airline.”

Ryanair spokesman Robin Keily said there was no evidence of any lessening of any competition between Aer Lingus and Ryanair.

“In fact, Ryanair's recent offer for Aer Lingus was prohibited by the EU precisely because of the evidence, submitted by both Aer Lingus and the Irish Government, that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has "intensified" during the past 6½ years,” Mr Kiely said.

The Competition Commission is due to rule on a possible forced sale of the stake in September.

Goodbody stockbrokers said the announcement does not lead to an immediate sale unless there is a takeover offer.

“Rather, it gives Ryanair a hook with which to appeal any negative decision by the UK CC,” analyst Donal O’Neill said.

It said Aer Lingus was best placed as an independent operator.

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