IAG freezes non-EU share ownership to 47.5% amid Brexit confusion

Airline group awaits guidance on whether its ownership structure will need to be amended

Aer Lingus parent IAG said in a statement it would suspend the voting rights of any shares acquired by a relevant non-EU person and require the owner to sell the shares to a third party or to the airline group itself. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Aer Lingus parent IAG said in a statement it would suspend the voting rights of any shares acquired by a relevant non-EU person and require the owner to sell the shares to a third party or to the airline group itself. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

IAG, the owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia airlines, said it would cap ownership of its shares by non-Europeans at the current 47.5 percent level to maintain its status as a European-owned airline.

Britainhas yet to seal a Brexit withdrawal agreement, posing a potential risk to airlines that do not meet EU rules requiring European carriers to be majority-owned and operated in the bloc.

Airlines that will no longer be majority owned by EU nationals once Britain leaves the EU face the threat of losing their right to fly within the bloc after Brexit due to share ownership rules.

European Commission sources told Reuters that Brussels encouraged IAG and all airlines concerned to check with the national licensing authorities whether they would still meet the operating licence requirements in case of a “no deal” Brexit.

Suspend the voting rights

The Aer Lingus parent said in a statement it would suspend the voting rights of any shares acquired by a relevant non-EU person and require the owner to sell the shares to a third party or to the airline group itself. But IAG said that UK citizens would not be subjected to this buying cap.

IAG has its headquarters in Britain and has shareholders from around the world. The Spanish government has said it is confident national flag carrier Iberia is a Spanish company and will be able to fly across Europe in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

On Wednesday the European Parliament will discuss common rules ensuring basic air connectivity following a no-deal Brexit. They also hope to agree to aviation safety with regard how airlines will operate in the event of a no-deal exit by the UK.

Ownership and control

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has proposed an amendment on ownership and control allowing them more time to restructure to March 2020 as opposed to having to restructure in 50 or so days and get approval.

“In the case of a no-deal Brexit there could be capacity restrictions which would limit the frequency of flights operating in and out of the UK. This could cause considerable inconvenience and expense to passengers who have already booked flights in 2019 based on flights currently available for purchase on airline websites and tour operator brochures, be they for business purposes or for indeed for leisure,” she said.

- Bloomberg