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Ryanair will sell off Aer Lingus stake


 Michael O'Leary. Photo: Tom Burke

Michael O'Leary. Photo: Tom Burke

Michael O'Leary. Photo: Tom Burke

BUDGET airline Ryanair has offered to sell its Aer Lingus stake to anyone – as long as it is an EU airline with a full takeover bid for the company.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary airline has been locked in a long-running battle with competition authorities.

Ryanair has now said it would sell its 29pc share in an attempt to prevent a ruling that would force it to sell.

Spokesman Robin Kiely said the move was part of the company's ongoing remedies discussions with the UK Competition Commission.

"Ryanair has now agreed that it will unconditionally sell its six and a half-year-old minority stake to any other EU airline which makes an offer for and acquires more than 50.1pc of Aer Lingus shares, at the same price and terms which are accepted by these other 50.1pc of Aer Lingus shareholders," Mr Kiely said.

"This remedy unconditionally removes any ability by Ryanair to block any future takeover of Aer Lingus by another EU airline."

Mr Kiely said concerns from the UK competition body that Ryanair's stake lessens competition among the Irish airlines were unfounded.

Ryanair was forced to admit defeat earlier this year following a third Aer Lingus takeover bid.

It had been notified at the time by the European Commission that its €694m buyout plan would be rejected.

Ryanair accused European chiefs of holding it to much higher standards than any other EU airline, claiming it would never get a fair hearing for a potential buyout.

The takeover bid in February appeared to have been boosted when Flybe agreed a plan to fly 43 of Aer Lingus' short-haul routes, thereby easing concerns.

There had also been a commitment from the IAG airline group to run overlapping Aer Lingus/Ryanair routes between Dublin and London.

But the bid, like two others before it, was rejected.