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Ryanair offers to sell Aer Lingus stake to another EU airline

It said it is offering to sell its stake as part of its ongoing discussions with the UK Competition Commission.

File phot of a Ryanair jet taking offfrom Stansted
File phot of a Ryanair jet taking offfrom Stansted
Image: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

RYANAIR HAS OFFERED to sell its stake in Aer Lingus to another EU airline as part of its ongoing discussions with the UK Competition Commission.

In May, the CC said that it had provisionally decided that Ryanair’s 29.8 per cent stake in its competitor could “reduce competition on routes between Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland”.

It said in a report at the time that the shareholding gives the budget airline “the ability to influence the commercial policy and strategy of Aer Lingus”.

Ryanair criticised the announcement in May, with Michael O’Leary describing the provisional decision as “bizarre and manifestly wrong”.

Today, Ryanair – which contends that the CC has “produced no evidence whatsoever of any lessening of competition” as a result of the shareholding – said it had offered to sell its shareholding.

In order to dispel the CC’s unfounded and invented “concern” that Ryanair’s shareholding may prevent Aer Lingus from being acquired by another EU airline, Ryanair will undertake to unconditionally sell its 29 per cent shareholding to any other EU airline that makes an offer for Aer Lingus and obtains acceptances from 50.1 per cent of Aer Lingus shareholders.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely said that the airline’s recent third offer for Aer Lingus was prohibited by the EU because of evidence, “submitted by both Aer Lingus and the Irish Government, that competition between Ryanair and Aer Lingus has “intensified” during the past 6½ years”.

He asserted that the only remaining ‘concern’ that the CC could pose is that Ryanair’s 29 per cent stake might prevent another EU airline buying Aer Lingus, despite evidence “that no other EU airline has any interest in acquiring Aer Lingus”.

Kiely said that the offer to sell the stake is “in order to remove any remaining shred of credibility from this CC process and eliminate any doubt” about this concern.

The details include:

Ryanair has now agreed that it will unconditionally sell its 6½ year old minority stake to any other EU airline which makes an offer for, and acquires more than 50.1 per cent of, Aer Lingus shares, at the same price and terms which are accepted by these other 50.1 per cent of Aer Lingus shareholders. This remedy unconditionally removes any ability by Ryanair to block any future takeover of Aer Lingus by another EU airline.

Read: Michael O’Leary’s second-in-command at Ryanair to step down>

Read: Ryanair may be forced to reduce its stake in rival Aer Lingus>

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