Ryanair confident of Aer Lingus deal in March

Ryanair expects to gain approval for its proposed €694m takeover of Aer Lingus in early March.

In a statement, the company said it had submitted a “radical and unprecedented” remedies package to the EU in support of its Aer Lingus offer.

“We believe these remedies address every current Ryanair/Aer Lingus crossover route and all other competition issues raised by the [European] Commission in its statement of objections,” the statement added.

The commission launched its investigation into Ryanair’s latest Aer Lingus approach last August. While a ruling was scheduled for the end of January, the commission raised a number of objections with the airline concerning its initial offers of maintaining competition on routes in and out of Ireland.

Last month saw the Government — via Transport and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar — stating its opposition to Ryanair’s plans for Aer Lingus on the grounds that they weren’t in the best interest of competition, connectivity, and employment for Ireland.

However, the Government did say it remained committed to selling its 25% stake in Aer Lingus “at the right time and under the right conditions”.

Ryanair lodged its revised remedies package to the commission this month, ahead of an extended early March ruling deadline.

While press reports have suggested it is offering to offload half of Aer Lingus’s short-haul business to the Exeter-based loss-making budget airline, FlyBe and Heathrow slots to British Airways, Ryanair was relatively tight-lipped on details yesterday, apart from saying the revised remedies involve “two upfront buyers each basing aircraft in Ireland to take over and operate a substantial part of Aer Lingus’s existing route network and short-haul business”.

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary added that, if successful, the deal will mark “the first EU airline merger which will deliver structural divestitures and multiple upfront buyers”.

“We look forward to completing our offer for Aer Lingus, subject to receiving approval from the EU competition authorities in early March,” Mr O’Leary said.

Another commission rejection next month could see Ryanair launch a lengthy appeal into the decision or — as it has previously hinted — disposing of its near 30% stake in Aer Lingus.

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