Aer Lingus spent €40m in thwarting Ryanair takeover bids
Commercial Court to hear Aer Lingus action seeking to prevent another takeover move
Aer Lingus is seeking a court ruling that no Ryanair bid could be launched before February 2014. Photograph: Frank Miller
The court will deal next month with an action by Aer Lingus aimed at preventing Ryanair issuing another takeover bid for the national carrier in August.
Aer Lingus claims it has incurred some €40 million costs in defending Ryanair’s bids to date and faces incurring further costs as a result of the restriction imposed on its commercial activities due to such takeover attempts.
In its action, it is challenging a ruling by the Irish Takeover Panel to the effect Ryanair had to wait 12 months after its August 2012 takeover bid before it could make another bid.
Aer Lingus had sought a ruling that no such bid could be launched before February 2014, 12 months after the European Commission’s decision blocking the Ryanair bid was made.
It is alleged the panel’s ruling has major commercial implications for Aer Lingus as, when the airline is within an offer period within the meaning of the takeover rulings, it is very significantly restrained in its commercial operations.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday granted an application by Paul Sreenan SC, for Aer Lingus, to fast-track the case in the Commercial Court and fixed it for hearing on July 18th. David Barniville SC, for the panel, and Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, consented to the application.
The action arises from Ryanair’s €694 million bid to win control of Aer Lingus. That offer, Ryanair’s third bid for its rival, was formally tabled in late July 2012 but was blocked last February by the European Commission which said the proposed merger would harm consumers by creating a dominant company on 46 routes where both airlines are competing.
Aer Lingus argues the panel’s ruling is wrong in law and the panel acted irrationally in leaving it subject to repeated offer periods. Ryanair and a subsidiary Coinside Ltd, through which the bid for Aer Lingus was made, are notice parties to the case.
Ryanair is Aer Lingus’s biggest shareholder with a 30 per cent stake. The Government, holder of a 25 per cent stake, also opposed Ryanair’s bid.