State seeks adviser to scope out options on sale of Aer Lingus stakeholding
New Era, the agency advising the Government on the sale of various assets, has tendered for an adviser in relation to the State’s 25 per cent shareholding in Aer Lingus.
The Irish Times has learned that a small number of groups have been asked to tender for the work.
Sources described it as an early-stage, scoping exercise to evaluate the Government’s options in relation to the stake.
The shares are currently valued at €144 million.
The fact that New Era has not engaged in a formal tendering process suggests that the fee involved is less than the €50,000 threshold for advertising public contracts.
The Government has indicated that it is willing to sell its shares in Aer Lingus as it no longer considers it to be a strategic stake.
Ryanair, which owns just under 30 per cent of Aer Lingus and is seeking European Commission approval to acquire its rival, has said it would like to buy the Government’s stake.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has also indicated its interest in the shares.
New Era declined to comment last night.
Etihad chief executive James Hogan said yesterday it would review its 2.99 per cent holding in Aer Lingus after EU regulators complete their review of a June takeover bid by Irish rival Ryanair.
The European Commission issued formal objections to the deal in November, setting out possible competition concerns.
“Once the commission has made its final ruling we will re- evaluate our position with regards to shareholding,” Mr Hogan said.
“Ireland is a strong outbound market even in these tough times.”
Etihad, the Middle East’s third-largest carrier, said it will probably halt further equity investments after a couple more deals, most likely targeting Asian traffic.
Etihad, which has minority stakes in Air Berlin, Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus and Air Seychelles, must not get distracted running other carriers, Mr Hogan said. – (Additional reporting: Bloomberg)