Three-way tussle for Aer Lingus may be on the cards
AS THE CLOCK ticks down to the publication of Ryanair’s bid document for Aer Lingus, there were some interesting comments this week from International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh and James Hogan of Etihad, which owns just under 3 per cent of Aer Lingus.
On Monday, Walsh once again stated that Aer Lingus was not on his radar, having just acquired UK airline BMI.
Walsh said that while some parts of Aer Lingus would be of interest to IAG/British Airways the “totality” of its business would not.
This is interesting in the context of any remedies that Ryanair might offer to persuade the European Commission to approve a takeover of Aer Lingus this time around.
On Tuesday Merrion Stockbrokers, an adviser to Aer Lingus in the past, described Walsh’s comments as “quite significant”.
“These comments from Willie Walsh suggest that IAG may have a more favourable view of the merger this time round and may also look to acquire slots that the merged entity is forced to give up at Heathrow,” Merrion added.
In 2006, Ryanair offered to give up between six and 10 of Aer Lingus’s plum Heathrow slots, which Walsh and British Airways would no doubt covet.
Hogan was keen to send a clear signal that Etihad thinks the Aer Lingus board and management are doing a “good job” and stressed his desire to strengthen their relationship.
Hogan is keen to acquire the State’s 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus.
Hogan’s ace card might be the connectivity with the rest of the world that he can offer via Etihad’s base in Abu Dhabi.
The Government is keen to improve access to Ireland to boost tourism and foreign direct investment.
This might yet develop into a three-way tussle for Aer Lingus.