Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair pressured over stake in rival

By JOHN MULLIGAN

The Irish Department of Transport has asked the UK's Competition Commission to order Ryanair to sell its entire 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus.

Last month, the UK watchdog said in a preliminary finding that Ryanair exerted "material influence" over Aer Lingus via its holding in its smaller rival.

The commission is now deciding on remedies to eradicate that influence and is due to report next month. It's almost certain to tell Ryanair to cut its stake in Aer Lingus, or even sell it in its entirety.

"The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport considers that only full divestiture of Ryanair's shareholding in Aer Lingus would be effective in addressing the substantial lessening of competition that has been identified by the commission," civil servant Ethna Brogan has told investigators at the UK watchdog. Ms Brogan is a principal officer at the department's Aviation Services division.

Ms Brogan has told the Commission that Ryanair has twice been prevented by the European Commission from pursuing bids for Aer Lingus.

"Given that its ultimate stated objective of acquiring control of the company is not capable of being fulfilled, the department considers that there is no valid reason for Ryanair to retain its shareholding," she said in a letter to the commission.

Belfast Telegraph