Sunday 18 March 2018

O'Leary urges Government to sell Aer Lingus shares

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.

Paul O'Donoghue

RYANAIR boss Michael O'Leary has branded Aer Lingus as "one of the great commercial failures of state ownership" and said that the Government should sell its stake in the airline and allow it to be "professionally run".

The colourful CEO repeated the company's view that he has no opinion on the offer of €2.55 per share by British airline IAG for Aer Lingus until a formal offer is tabled, but added that the Government should look to offload its stake.

He said: "When the Irish Government floated Aer Lingus they should have sold off 100pc and then they wouldn't be involved in this issue now anyway. What good does Ireland get out of holding a 25pc slot in Aer Lingus? Nothing.

"Aer Lingus has done nothing for growth in Ireland in the past five years, [it] has been one of the great commercial failures of Irish state ownership and there have been plenty of those.

"The sooner the Government sells out its remaining 25pc stake and allows Aer Lingus to be run for the benefit of its customers and shareholders, the better it will be for Aer Lingus and the Irish consumer."

Regarding the issue of the Heathrow landing slots, Mr O'Leary said that it had generated more publicity than was warranted, pointing out that other British airports are frequently used by Irish passengers.

He added that the Government should have a "more intelligent long-term approach to where they want Aer Lingus to go and stop all this hysterical nonsense about connectivity because it's not really a big issue".

Mr O'Leary also claimed that the Government should look to Ryanair if it is concerned about routes such as Cork or Shannon, saying: "We are growing strongly at airports like Shannon and if the Government is really worried about regional airports in Ireland it needs Ryanair there, not to be faffing about with your 25pc stake in Aer Lingus."

He added he expects that a ruling by the British Competition Commission on Ryanair's holding in Aer Lingus will be appealed regardless of the outcome.

Ryanair holds a near 30pc stake in Aer Lingus and has tabled three unsuccessful bids to buy the airline.

Ryanair had previously been instructed by the UK Competition Commission to dispose of all but 5pc of its shares in Aer Lingus due to competition concerns.

Mr O'Leary has claimed that Ryanair has approached several European airlines, including IAG, in an attempt to sell off part of its stake in Aer Lingus but has been turned down in every case.

Mr O'Leary was speaking at the company's results for its third quarter, ending December 31, which saw it report a pre-tax profit of €49m compared with a loss of €35m for the same period in 2013.

Irish Independent

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