Ryanair eyes technology, retail projects

Ryanair Holdings may add technology startups and retail businesses as potential acquisition targets as Europe’s biggest discount airline seeks to develop its online presence and boost ancillary sales.

Any such purchases would be “small things: content businesses, retail opportunities,” said chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs in an interview in London yesterday.

“There are lots of things that could be interesting” over the next 10 years, with any deals targeted at “improving the product, the distribution and the service” rather than amounting to a distraction from the main business of flying.

Ryanair is seeking to tame its no-frills image and lure new customer groups such as business passengers and older travellers with a website overhaul, new television adverts, and applications for mobile devices.

The Dublin-based firm submitted a non-binding offer for Cyprus Airways in August, which would extend Ryanair’s footprint eastward, and it is reviewing the documentation of Spanish airport operator Aena. Ryanair has made few acquisitions in its 29-year history.

CEO Michael O’Leary’s only deal beyond the €20.1m purchase of Buzz from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been a minority investment in Aer Lingus, with the executive instead preferring to enter markets after the demise of local airlines rather than bail them out. European antitrust authorities have blocked a full takeover and the UK Competition Commission has ruled that the stake must be reduced.

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