Ryanair ready to appeal EC’s Aer Lingus decision

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IRISH airline Ryanair last night vowed to take its battle for control of rival budget carrier Aer Lingus to court after being told the European Commission (EC) plans to block its takeover bid.

At a “state of play” meeting with officials yesterday, Ryanair was told the EC would “prohibit” the airline’s offer for its rival, the third to be tabled since 2006.

News of the decision came despite Ryanair lining up British Airways-owner IAG to take over all of its operations at Gatwick airport and rival carrier Flybe to take on 43 Aer Lingus routes from Ireland to the UK and Europe if the bid was successful.

Spokesman Robin Kiely said: “Ryanair has no alternative but to appeal any prohibition decision and we expect to get a fair hearing at the European courts, as we haven’t received one from Commissioner [Joaquín] Almunia and his case team.

“This decision is clearly a political one to meet the narrow, vested interests of the Irish government and is not based on competition law.”

A spokesman for Aer Lingus responded: “The number of routes into and out of Ireland on which Aer Lingus and Ryanair compete has sharply increased since 2007.

“The reasons for prohibition are therefore even stronger in this instance than with the previous offers.”

Flybe, which is run by Scots-born executive chairman Jim French, said that it was “disappointed by this news” and added that it will “await the outcome of the appeal process” put in motion by Ryanair.

Ryanair already holds a 29.8 per cent stake in Aer Lingus following its previous takeover attempts for the company.

The Irish government is expected to be forced to sell its 25.1 per cent holding in the flag carrier as a result of its international bail-out.