Aer Lingus shareholders effectively have 60 days as of yesterday to accept the airline’s proposed sale to British Airways owner IAG before a deal lapses.
However, reports surfaced yesterday that IAG is unlikely to get the green light for its plans, from the EU without offering concessions, which it is understood to be considering.
It met with the European Commission this week, an event seen by some as meaning that the EC is concerned about effects on industry competition should IAG buy Aer Lingus.
The London-based group yesterday published the full details of its formal €1.4bn takeover offer for Aer Lingus, a deal which last month finally won the support of the Government, which owns 25% in the former State-controlled airline.
If accepted, Aer Lingus shareholders will receive €2.55 in cash for each share of the company they own. That comprises a payment of €2.50 per share and an additional dividend of 5c for each share.
IAG, which also owns Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, is looking for a 90% approval rate and said the offer will initially remain open for shareholder acceptance until 5pm on July 16, although that timeframe can extend into August if the relevant number of acceptances are not received by that time.
On the same day, Aer Lingus will hold an EGM allowing shareholders to vote on terms aimed at maintaining the airline’s Heathrow slots and connections agreed between the two parties.
Those resolutions regard things like how long Aer Lingus — when owned by IAG — would commit to retaining its current schedule between Dublin and Heathrow.
They also support terms agreed by the Government to maintain Aer Lingus’s services between Cork and Shannon and London. The offer document and form of acceptance were yesterday posted by IAG to Aer Lingus shareholders.
IAG’s offer document noted the disposal of Aer Lingus’s slots at Heathrow will be restricted and that those slots will be retained by Aer Lingus for a minimum period of seven years.
It also confirmed the Aer Lingus brand will remain intact and that the company will remain incorporated in Ireland with its headquarters maintained in Dublin.
Aer Lingus has reiterated its feeling that a sale to IAG will boost connectivity to and from Ireland, expand Dublin Airport as a travel hub and increase employment. Jointly, Aer Lingus and IAG believe it possible to increase net employment at the Irish airline by 150 employees by the end of next year, while Aer Lingus’s growth over the next five years could lead to the creation of 635 jobs.
While the Government and smaller 5% shareholder, Etihad Airways have already announced willingness to dispose of their stakes in Aer Lingus the deal will largely hinge on near 30% minority shareholder Ryanair.
A Ryanair spokesperson reiterated yesterday that the company will make its decision regarding its holding “in due course”.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe was quoted yesterday as, effectively, saying that the ball is now firmly in the court of other stakeholders.
“It [the formal offer issuance] will trigger a timetable of weeks, inside which other shareholders will have to decide what to do,” said Mr Donohoe.
“I felt it was better that we deal directly with IAG before that period commenced, in order to receive the guarantees that we need. That’s what we did.”
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