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UK resumes probe into Ryanair's Aer Lingus stake

BRITAIN'S Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has confirmed that it has resumed an investigation into Ryanair's almost 30pc stake in Aer Lingus to determine if a "relevant merger situation" has been created.

The probe recommenced after the OFT was given the go-ahead in July to resume the investigation, following a Competition Appeal Tribunal ruling that the agency was entitled to examine the relationship between the two airlines.

Ryanair had objected to the probe when it originally began last year, claiming that it hadn't been launched within the appropriate timeframe.

The OFT investigation will seek to clarify whether Ryanair has exerted "material influence" over strategy of Aer Lingus -- which used to be owned by the Irish State -- and if Ryanair's shareholding has substantially lessened competition.

The OFT, headed by Irishman John Fingleton, will decide by October whether to refer its findings to the UK's Competition Commission.

A Ryanair spokesman reiterated yesterday that the probe should be halted, adding that it set a "damaging precedent" for future UK mergers.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller has previously said it was "incomprehensible" that Ryanair has been allowed to remain a shareholder in the airline, adding that this was "contrary to the interests of consumers".

Irish Independent