FROM SCRATCH NEWSWIRE

SCAVENGING THE INTERNET

AER LINGUS CHIEF LOBBIES DUBLIN TO REPEL RYANAIR OFFER – THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF AER LINGUS BRANDED RYANAIR’S RENEWED TAKEOVER ATTEMPT AS “PATHETIC” YESTERDAY (Ireland)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008

by Susan Thompson – The Times

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE TIMES’ (UK)

Dermot Mannion said that Ryanair’s €1.40 offer per share, made on December 1, fell far short of the Irish flag carrier’s true value. The offer puts a €748 million (£665 million) value on the former state-controlled airline. It is half the amount that Ryanair offered two years ago when it first made a bid.

Mr Mannion, who has been lobbying the Irish Government for its help to repel the hostile bid, called Ryanair’s offered price “a pathetic sum in the context of the €1.3 billion in cash on the group’s balance sheet, the substantial value of our fleet and the value of the Heathrow slots”.

Mr Mannion met Noel Dempsey, the Irish Transport Minister, yesterday to seek government assurances that it would not sell any shares to Ryanair. The Government holds 25 per cent of Aer Lingus, while Ryanair is the top shareholder with 30 per cent.

Firm opposition until now from the Government had helped to blunt Ryanair’s ambitions. So too had a June 2007 ruling by European competition regulators that a takeover would create a near-monopoly in European flights out of Dublin.

However, since December 1, the Government has wavered because it faces a financial crisis involving a sharp drop in tax revenues and soaring deficit spending, and could badly use the cash that Ryanair is offering. Mr Dempsey declined to comment.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, has admitted that the €1.40 offer, if successful, would mean that Ryanair acquired its rival for “almost nothing”. However, he argued that the spate of airline bankruptcies caused by the economic downturn had strengthened the company’s position.

Mr O’Leary claimed that Aer Lingus had no medium-term future in the face of competition from Ryanair and Europe’s rapidly consolidating flag-carrier airlines.

Ryanair has sought to defuse opposition to its bid by offering to recognise Aer Lingus’s unions, cut the airline’s short-haul fares by 5 per cent, scrap its fuel surcharge and give control of landing slots at Heathrow to the Irish Government. Mr O’Leary also pledged to increase Aer Lingus’s workforce by 1,000.

If Ryanair is to succeed it must win support from shareholders, including Aer Lingus’s employees. The crew and pilots own about 18 per cent of the airline and have expressed concern about job and pay cuts if they are acquired by the budget carrier.

Aer Lingus shares slipped 0.7 per cent to €1.50. Ryanair shares fell 5.7 per cent to €3.04.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE TIMES’ (UK)

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