Irish airline Ryanair Holdings Plc (LON:RYA) said today it will unconditionally sell its entire 29% interest in smaller rival Aer Lingus Group Plc (LON:AERL) to any other European Union (EU) carrier that makes a bid and secures acceptances from 50.1% of the target’s stockholders.
The announcement was made after the UK’s Competition Commission (CC) said in late May that Ryanair may have to reduce or shed its entire stake in Aer Lingus as it could threaten competition on certain routes.
Ryanair, which has itself failed to take full control of Aer Lingus three times already, noted that this remedy eliminates the company’s ability to block any future acquisition of the business by another EU airline.
The CC is expected to finalise an investigation into Ryanair’s stake by 5 September.
UK regional airline company Flybe Group Plc (LON:FLYB) said it is disappointed by the news that the European Commission (EC) will most certainly block Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair Holdings Plc’s (LON:RYA) planned buyout of Aer Lingus Group Plc (LON:AERL).
EC’s expected decision would not only prevent Ryanair from securing the 70% it does not already own in its smaller rival, but also hinder Flybe’s deal to acquire 43 Aer Lingus UK and European routes plus some aircraft for EUR1m (USD1.3m).
This latest agreement is part of Ryanair’s “unprecedented” remedies package in connection with the Aer Lingus bid. The company had also agreed to sell all of its and Aer Lingus’ London-Gatwick operations to International Airlines Group (LON:IAG).
Yesterday, Ryanair announced it was notified by the EC of its intention to ban the buyout despite the offered concessions. The company also noted it would appeal any prohibition decision to the European Courts. In its own statement, Flybe said it would wait to see the outcome of that process.
Ryanair is offering a price of EUR1.30 (USD1.75) per share to buy the remaining shares in Aer Lingus, thus valuing the company at EUR694m.
UK regional airline company Flybe Group Plc (LON:FLYB) said it had signed a deal under which it would acquire several aircraft and operating routes from Irish peer Ryanair Holdings Plc (LON:RYA), if the latter manages to successfully take over its rival Aer Lingus Group Plc (LON:AERL).
The planned transaction is part of a package of concessions sent to the European Commission (EC) by Ryanair in an attempt to finally obtain the regulator’s nod for its Aer Lingus buyout.
As part of the deal, Ryanair would form a new company, to be known as Flybe Ireland, and transfer to it a total of 43 European routes along with requisite number of slots and licences to operate them. In addition, the Irish company would contribute at least nine Airbus A320 aircraft and inject EUR100m (USD135.3m) in cash. In turn, Flybe will acquire the new company for EUR1m.
The move will only be carried out in the event that the EC clears Ryanair’s bid for Aer Lingus by 6 March 2013 and the transaction is completed in May. On the other hand, the Flybe Ireland deal is seen to close in October, after its potential buyer conducts due diligence and posts a circular to its own stockholders for approval. Flybe noted it has already received irrevocable acceptances representing 64% of the shareholders.
Yesterday, however, Aer Lingus’s CEO Christoph Mueller told journalists he expects the EC to once again block Ryanair’s takeover offer despite the proposed remedies. According to him, it is doubtful whether Flybe would be an independent competitor to Ryanair after such a move.
So far, European Union (EU) regulators had banned twice Ryanair’s effords to buy the 70% stake it does not already have in Aer Lingus. The latest offer of EUR1.30 per share values the target at EUR694m.