Ryanair to appeal blocking of takeover

Ryanair has instructed lawyers to appeal against the European Commission’s decision to block its takeover of Aer Lingus before the commission has even ruled.

Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said the airline had not received fair hearing from the European Competition Commissioner, Joaquín Almunia.

“Given Ryanair’s remedies package clearly addresses every issue raised in the EU’s statement of objections, any decision to prohibit would be manifestly unfair and in contravention of EU competition rules,” Ryanair said.

“Ryanair has no alternative but to appeal any prohibition decision and we expect to get a fair hearing at the European courts, as we haven’t received one from Commissioner Almunia and his case team.

“This decision is clearly a political one to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish Government and is not based on competition law.”

A spokesperson for the commission’s competition department said: “There will be a decision on this issue at the end of February or the beginning of March.”

Ryanair said it had been notified at a ‘state of play’ meeting with the commission that its third Aer Lingus takeover attempt would be blocked.

Ryanair claims it had been held to a higher standard than other airlines, in particular IAG.

Mr Kiely said: “Given that the EU Commission recently approved IAG’s acquisition of BMI at London-Heathrow on the basis of three year commitments, the EU’s claim that it could not be satisfied of IAG’s and FlyBe’s commitments to these Irish routes after three years is another example of the EU holding Ryanair to a much higher standard than any other EU airline.”

Ryanair claims it had gone beyond what the EU requires in delivering two airlines, FlyBe and British Airways, who have agreed to take over routes for at least three years to satisfy EU competition concerns.

Aer Lingus said that although it was unaware of any decision by the European Competition Commission, the takeover attempt should never have been made.

“Ryanair’s first attempt to take over Aer Lingus was prohibited in 2007 on competition grounds. Aer Lingus is a much stronger airline today than it was at the time of the previous Ryanair offers and is Ryanair’s only significant competitor on the vast majority of Irish air routes,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

“The number of routes into and out of Ireland on which Aer Lingus and Ryanair compete has sharply increased since 2007. The reasons for prohibition are therefore even stronger in this instance than with the previous offers. Therefore, it was and remains Aer Lingus’s position that the offer should never have been made.”

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has repeatedly stated the Government’s opposition to the takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair.

“I note the Ryanair statement. As I have stated before, the Ryanair remedies package as reported, has not satisfied the Government’s concerns about connectivity, competition or employment,” he said.

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