Aer Lingus ‘still in Etihad sights’

The Government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus remains an investment prospect for Etihad Airways, according to the airline’s chief executive officer James Hogan.

“All I’ve said is that if they were to open their books then we’d have a look at it,” he told Bloomberg yesterday, adding that Aer Lingus has a “pension issue” that would have to be evaluated.

While the Government said they didn’t want to sell their stake in the national airline at a fire sale price, they have said that once the market recovers they will consider selling Aer Lingus.

In a statement, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said: “Consideration will be given to the sale of some assets of Coillte (excluding the sale of land) and the sale of the state’s remaining shareholding in Aer Lingus when market conditions are favourable and at an acceptable price to Government.”

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, who have immediate responsibility for Aer Lingus, said they hadn’t entered into formal negotiations to sell the state’s airline.

“The department is not in formal negotiations with any party over the state’s stake in Aer Lingus. However, a number of parties have expressed an interest in acquiring the stake.”

Addressing the issues that the CEO of Etihad raised about Aer Lingus’s pension liabilities the Department of Transport said: “the resolution of the pension deficit is a matter for the trustees, the companies involved and the members of the scheme.”

Etihad Airlines plans to intensify its strategy of growing passenger numbers via tie-ups with other carriers, but industry speculation has said that Etihad’s interest in Aer Lingus focuses on the companies valuable Heathrow slots.

Aer Lingus has the third highest number of landing slots at London’s main airport. Heathrow is currently operating at 98.5% of maximum capacity so there all landing slots are increasingly valuable.


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