Dublin: Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said on Tuesday that the European Commission intended to block its takeover bid for rival carrier Aer Lingus on grounds of unfair competition and that it would appeal against the decision.
“Ryanair...was notified this [Tuesday] morning at a state-of-play meeting with the EU Commission, that the EU Commission intends to prohibit Ryanair’s offer for Aer Lingus, despite the fact that Ryanair has met every competition concern raised in the EU’s statement of objections and during the review process,” a statement said.
Ryanair said last month that it had submitted “a radical and unprecedented remedies package to the EU in support of its offer for Aer Lingus.”
Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said in a statement: “It appears clear from this morning’s meeting, that no matter what remedies Ryanair offered, we were not going to get a fair hearing and were going to be prohibited regardless of competition rules.”
He said: “This decision is clearly a political one to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish government and is not based on competition law.”
Ryanair owns 30 percent of Aer Lingus and offered last July to buy the Irish government’s stake in the airline, but Dublin has stood firm and last month formally announced that it would not sell.
The Irish government owns 25.1 percent of Aer Lingus — not enough alone to block Ryanair’s offer, while the European Commission is concerned that a takeover would diminish competition for Irish consumers.
The Commission blocked an earlier Ryanair bid for Aer Lingus in 2006, arguing that it would harm competition.
Recent media reports said Ryanair had offered to offload more than a third of Aer Lingus’ short-haul operations to secure the takeover.
The Financial Times had said that Ryanair would dispose of 23 routes where a takeover would create a monopoly - to British rival low-cost airline Flybe.
The business daily added that Ryanair had proposed to give British Airways the right to purchase about half of Aer Lingus’ slots at London Heathrow airport that are used to fly services to Ireland.
“For the first time in EU airline history, Ryanair delivered not one, but two, substantial upfront EU airline buyers who have agreed to come to Ireland to compete against a combined Ryanair/Aer Lingus,” Ryanair added on Tuesday.