O’Leary says ruling will not prevent third bid for former state airline

RYANAIR says the latest European court ruling will not prevent it making a third bid for Aer Lingus.

Its chief executive Michael O’Leary said, however, that the airline has “no immediate plans” to make an offer for Aer Lingus, which he added would be unlikely to succeed unless the Irish Government decides to sell its 25% stake. Mr O’Leary said: “We note the court’s decision on our appeal against the EU Commission’s ruling on our 2006 offer for Aer Lingus. This will not prevent Ryanair making a future offer for Aer Lingus, but... any such offer will have to take account of the court’s detailed ruling.”

Ryanair shares were up 2.1% to €3.75 yesterday while Aer Lingus jumped 2.6%. Mr O’Leary said the long-term viability of Aer Lingus can only be secured as part of one strong Irish airline group, “particularly when the rest of Europe’s airlines are consolidating to three main flag carriers”.

“Unless Aer Lingus finds a strong airline partner then we believe it is doomed to fail because it can’t compete with Ryanair’s low fares, customer service or scale.”

Aer Lingus said the EU Commission’s findings shows that consumers would be “harmed by such a takeover which would remove the competition between Aer Lingus and Ryanair on Irish routes”.

The former state airline said it is considering the judgment on Ryanair’s shareholding before it will decide on making a further appeal to the European Court of Justice. Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington said: “It is regrettable the court has not taken this opportunity to take the further step necessary to address the anti-competitive effects of Ryanair’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus which is contrary to the interests of the majority of our shareholders.”


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