‘No Walsh conflict’ if Aer Lingus sold

There are procedures in place to deal with any potential conflict of interest that will arise if the Government decides to sell Aer Lingus while Willie Walsh is NTMA chairman, according to the Department of Finance.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan announced on Monday that he was appointing ex-Aer Lingus CEO Mr Walsh to the advisory board of the NTMA with a view to becoming the agency’s future chairman.

One of the NTMA’s subsidiaries is NewEra, which is responsible for advising the Government on the divestment of State assets, including Aer Lingus.

The minister still has a 25% stake in Aer Lingus and when this is put up for sale it could lead to a conflict of interest for Mr Walsh. He is currently the chief executive of IAG, which could potentially be one of the bidders for Aer Lingus in the event of a sale.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said the NTMA had procedures in place to manage potential conflicts of interest.

“NewERA’s role in relation to the sale of Aer Lingus, or indeed any State asset, is that it is the Government’s financial adviser in relation to Government’s commercial state assets. In addition, when asked to do so, it can also assist with implementing sale transactions, but again as adviser rather than decision maker,” added the spokesman.

The NTMA declined to comment.

The sale of Aer Lingus as well as Bord Gáis Energy were some of the fundraising measures agreed with the troika during bailout negotiations in Nov 2010.

However, the sale of Aer Lingus is likely to be delayed for the foreseeable future because of the failed takeover bid by Ryanair, said the Finance spokesman.

“The recently completed investigations by the European Commission and UK’s Competition Commission (and pending appeals) have been complicating factors in the disposal of the State’s stake in the company.

“These matters will continue to be taken into account in the Government’s plans for how to proceed with the disposal of its stake. For now, however, it is the Government’s view that optimal conditions do not exist for a sale of the Government’s remaining shareholding at present.

“Nevertheless, the Government remains open to considering opportunities to dispose of its shareholding and will, in the meantime, continue to manage the holding in a responsible manner in order to protect the State’s interests and with the aim of maximising its value.”

As previously reported by the , the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, which was scheduled to take place prior to the end of this year, has been put back to 2014.

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