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Aer Lingus sale near as officials tease out details of IAG's bid with EC chiefs


Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe sought to defuse row

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe sought to defuse row

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe sought to defuse row

Department of Transport officials have been in direct contact with the European Commission ahead of the Government's long-awaited decision over its stake in Aer Lingus.

The communication between Minister Paschal Donohoe's officials and the European Commission centred around a number of issues, including the highly valuable Heathrow slots and certain routes currently operated by the airline.

The proposed takeover by the International Airlines Group (IAG) is now expected to be decided upon by the Cabinet the week after next.

Mr Donohoe, pictured, has formally received a report into the proposed takeover which is believed to recommend a sale to the British Airways-owned airline.

The Dublin Central TD will consider the report in the coming days before bringing a recommendation to Cabinet.

But confirmation by the department last night that it has discussed issues such as the Heathrow slots with the EU authorities is an indication that a deal is close to being finalised.

"In his statement of 24 February the minister indicated that any commitments offered by IAG on Heathrow slots and routes would be subject to EU considerations," a spokesperson told the Irish Independent.

"In the context of its continued engagement with IAG on these issues there has been contact with the European Commission as we are prudently ensuring that any mechanisms that may be considered would be robust in the event that a deal is done. At this point no deal has been agreed."

As reported by the Irish Independent last week, any decision to sell the Government's 25.1pc stake will be influenced by the position of Ryanair, which owns 29.8pc of its rival carrier.

But this aside, the political ramifications of selling its stake could cause serious problems for the Coalition.

Last week, the Impact trade union called on the Government to scrap the sale plans amid claims that assurances offered by the aviation giant are "worthless".

An emergency conference motion calling on Mr Donohoe to oppose the sale of the Government's stake in the airline was passed by union delegates.

Impact still has considerable ties to a number of Labour TDs and has held meetings with deputies in Leinster House in recent weeks.

A number of Labour TDs still have huge reservations about the IAG offer.

Speaking at an event in Dublin, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said that he was relaxed about the potential €1.3bn deal. Mr Walsh said he was "in no hurry" to see a resolution to the bid. This is despite the fact that IAG's initial bid to Aer Lingus was tabled over six months ago.

Irish Independent