Friday, June 15 16:57:44
Further doubt has been cast on the ability of Ryanair to hold on to its Aer Lingus stake after the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) decision to refer Ryanair's shareholding for detailed investigation by the Competition Commission under the UK's merger control legislation.
Ryanair has had a 29pc share in Aer Lingus for the last five years and has made several unsuccessful attempts to grab a majority stake.
Aer Lingus' CEO, Christoph Mueller, said: "Today's decision by the OFT supports our view that Ryanair's shareholding in Aer Lingus is contrary to the interests of consumers and the majority of our shareholders. It is unacceptable that our principal competitor has been allowed to remain on our share register even though the European Commission blocked their hostile takeover almost five years ago. We look forward to cooperating with the Competition Commission in its investigation which we are confident will result in Ryanair being ordered to dispose of its shareholding."
But Ryanair has also welcomed today's decision.
Ryanair said it is confident that the Competition Commission will agree with the EU Commission which found in 2007 - over five years ago - that since Ryanair has neither "de facto or de jure control" in Aer Lingus, it should not be forced to sell down its 29pc stake.
"Ryanair regrets this waste of public time and resources, and the UK OFT's continued wild goose chase into a six year old failed merger, when neither the Irish Competition authorities, nor the EU Commission, had any objection to Ryanair's 29pc minority stake, which has conferred no influence or control upon Ryanair, since Aer Lingus has ignored Ryanair's advice and in a number of specific cases, denied Ryanair shareholder rights," a statement said.