Etihad keen to buy Ryanair's stake in Aer Lingus


GULF CARRIER Etihad Airways has said it is interested in buying Ryanair’s almost 30 per cent stake in Aer Lingus as Europe’s biggest discount airline battles to take over its Irish competitor.

Etihad, which already owns 3 per cent of Aer Lingus, would be “very happy to have that discussion”, chief executive James Hogan said yesterday. “Dublin is a strong, profitable route for us and we’re very keen to strengthen our partnership there.”

The third-largest Middle Eastern carrier has also had talks about buying the State’s 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus as it invests overseas to help bolster traffic through its Abu Dhabi hub.

Ryanair said in its June bid statement that if Etihad or another investor acquired the State’s stake, it would be willing to enter into talks about selling its own holding. A Ryanair spokesman declined to comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ryanair is understood to be in ongoing discussions with the European Commission over what changes may be required to allow it to take over Aer Lingus, writes Genevieve Carbery.

Last night Ryanair described reports it was proposing to pull Aer Lingus from a series of Dublin routes if permitted to take over the airline as “rumour and speculation”.

Reports said that under such a proposal other airlines would be allowed to operate the vacated Aer Lingus Dublin routes. Such a proposal could address some concerns previously expressed by the Commission, acting as the EU competition watchdog, that the takeover could allow Ryanair to dominate the market in Dublin.

Ryanair would not comment on the EU process currently under way on its takeover offer.

This week British Airways said it would fly from Dublin to London Heathrow up to eight times a day, a move that could allow it to carry up to 600,000 passengers a year between the cities. - (Bloomberg)