UK court of appeal dismisses Ryanair action
THE UK’S court of appeal has dismissed an action by Ryanair that the UK office of fair trading (OFT) was “not in time” with its investigation of its 29.8 per cent shareholding in Aer Lingus.
This follows an earlier rejection of the matter by the competition appeal tribunal in the UK on July 28th, 2011.
Ryanair now plans to appeal the case to the UK supreme court.
It was refused permission by the court of appeal to appeal to the supreme court. However, it has 28 days to apply directly to the supreme court for permission to appeal.
“Ryanair’s lawyers will immediately apply to appeal today’s ruling to the UK supreme court and will be seeking a suspension of any OFT investigation pending an outcome of this supreme court appeal,” Ryanair said yesterday.
The OFT welcomed the ruling and said the parties had agreed that it would have a further 15 working days to consider whether the matter should be referred to the competition commission.
The case relates to Ryanair’s shareholding in Aer Lingus.
In December 2006, a bid by Ryanair to acquire Aer Lingus was rejected by the European Commission. Aer Lingus then asked the commission to force Ryanair to sell its shares in the company.
The commission decided that it did not have the power to do this and suggested that the relevant body in the UK might.
On September 30th, 2010, the OFT gave notice to Ryanair that it would be seeking information to enable it to determine whether a merger situation had arisen that might require a referral to the competition commission.
Ryanair objected on the grounds that the time within which the OFT might have made such a reference had expired on October 28th, 2007.
The issue has been in dispute since then but the court of appeal yesterday ruled that the OFT had the right to investigate the matter.
Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said it was “unacceptable” that its main competitor had been allowed to remain as a significant shareholder even though the European Commission blocked its takeover in 2007.
“This intolerable situation cannot be allowed to continue,” Mr Mueller added.