Ryanair seeks meeting with Aer Lingus shareholders


Ryanair said today it was seeking to meet with Aer Lingus shareholders after the board rejected a new €750 million bid from the budget airline.

Ryanair, which has already bought 29.82 per cent of Aer Lingus shares at an average €2.49, yesterday made its all-cash offer at €1.40 per share, representing a 28 per cent premium over the average closing price for Aer Lingus shares in the 30 days to November 28th.

At 11.41am Aer Lingus shares were up 4.6 per cent at €1.34 while Ryanair shares were largely flat at €2.79.

Aer Lingus turned down the previous approach from its neighbour at Dublin Airport, and its board on Monday rejected the fresh offer as "significantly" undervaluing the airline and strongly advised shareholders to take no action.

A Ryanair spokeswoman said the carrier was seeking meetings with the Irish government and other Aer Lingus shareholders, as one analyst said a deal might benefit the Irish airline industry in the long term.

The Government has a 25.1 per cent stake in the carrier, which was privatised in 2006, while employees hold 14.2 per cent. A further 30.8 per cent stake is held by other investors including a 2.27 per cent holding by billionaire Denis O'Brien.

Minister for Education and Science Batt O'Keeffe told RTÉ last night a merger of the two airlines at this point "would not be in keeping with Government policy".

"Let's see the offer," he said, adding that the government had to take on board the rejection by Aer Lingus's board.

The finance and transport ministries were not immediately available for comment. In London, shares in Aer Lingus were trading 1.4 per cent higher by 10.03am at €1.29, while Ryanair's shares were 0.5 per cent lower at €2.77.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said yesterday it was "no surprise" Aer Lingus's board turned down the offer adding that the offer document would be published shortly.

Mr O'Leary said he believed Aer Lingus staff would be more receptive this time, given recent job losses at the airline. But unions said they had major concerns over jobs prospects and competition.