No sale of Aer Lingus to Ryanair

THE Government will only sell its 25% stake in Aer Lingus to a party that can guarantee its independence from arch-rival Ryanair, the Aer Lingus chief executive told Reuters.

The Government is looking at asset sales to help cut the worst budget deficit in Europe. But Aer Lingus’s Christoph Mueller said Dublin would not sell its Aer Lingus stake, valued at around €150 million, to Ryanair because it would crush competition. Ryanair already owns nearly 30% of Aer Lingus.

“The Irish Government needs to make sure we are not taken over by Ryanair, because only two air carriers guarantee that the fares from London to Dublin remain very low,” Mueller told Reuters on Wednesday.

“They will only sell to a party which guarantees the independence of Aer Lingus,” Mueller said on the sidelines of a business conference in Dublin. “I have no other information than that and we talk to them regularly. They are very pleased the share price is coming up and that we create value for the government at this time.”

The former state-owned airline has fended off two hostile bids from Ryanair. Britain’s Office of Fair Trading launched an investigation last week into Ryanair’s stake in Aer Lingus, which Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary subsequently called “a wild goose chase”. Mueller said the probe was credible.

The CEO also said he was exploring closer links with an Asian airline to give Aer Lingus access to markets in the region.

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