Aer Lingus chief open to selling stake

AER Lingus can survive as a standalone airline but it might prefer to sell a stake to a larger player to take part in the sector’s consolidation wave, its chief executive has said.

The former state airline has fended off two hostile bids from Ryanair and Christoph Mueller told the Aviation Week journal he did not expect another bid due to opposition from the European Commission and as the shares “have become too expensive for them (Ryanair).”

Shares in Aer Lingus traded 1% lower yesterday to close at 97 cents but reversed losses in after hours trading.

Mr Mueller said he was exploring closer links with a global airline alliance. “I believe that consolidation around the three alliances will continue,” he said, referring to Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld.

“The decision is not straightforward as all three have benefits to Aer Lingus,” Goodbody analyst Ken Darmody said.

Mr Mueller also referred to Lufthansa’s purchase of a minority stake in Brussels Airlines as a model for joining a larger group. He did not rule out growing through acquisitions, using Aer Lingus’s €1 billion gross cash position.


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