Etihad 'not in talks' with Ryanair


Etihad Airways has said it is not in talks with Ryanair regarding Ryanair's stake in Aer Lingus.

The gulf carrier is said to be 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 last night said it was not in talks with Ryanair regarding its stake in Aer Lingus, but "would be happy to have a discussion about the stake, and evaluate the opportunity as we would any other commercial proposition".

"As stated on several occasions, Dublin is a strong and profitable route for Etihad Airways and we are very keen to strengthen our partnership there," the gulf airline, which already owns a 3 per cent stake in Aer Lingus, said.

The third-largest Middle Eastern carrier is also said to have 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. However, Etihad declined to clarify whether it would be interested in the Government's stake as well as Ryanair's stake in Aer Lingus.

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.

Meanwhile, Ryanair last night 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.