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Ryanair set to make offer for Italian airline Alitalia


Bid: Michael O'Leary

Bid: Michael O'Leary

Bid: Michael O'Leary

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has confirmed his company intends to submit a binding bid for Italian airline Alitalia - including its long-haul operations - in what would be a significant strategic shift for the carrier.

Mr O'Leary said yesterday that if Ryanair was successful with its bid, which is due by October 2, it would retain the Alitalia brand and its long-haul operations, but would change the ownership structure of the company's short-haul fleet, which is currently leased.

Ryanair operates an almost entirely owned fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft.

It runs 13 routes out of Belfast International Airport and is one of about 10 airlines and groups that in July submitted non-binding agreements to Alitalia's administrator to buy the ailing carrier or parts of it.

Other bidders include easyJet, Aer Lingus owner IAG, Delta and Air France.

Alitalia collapsed into administration in May.

At the time the non-binding agreement was submitted, Ryanair chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said that Alitalia would need to be "radically overhauled" before the business would get involved with it. Speaking in Berlin yesterday, Mr O'Leary confirmed that Ryanair was planning on retaining Alitalia's long-haul business and the brand if the bid was successful.

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Two weeks ago Mr O'Leary Ryanair would likely operate 90 Alitalia jets under the airline's livery.

The Irish carrier is unable to take over all of the company because such a move would be blocked on competition grounds.

Ryanair was recently thwarted in efforts to get involved in the carve-up of failed carrier Air Berlin.

News of the impending bid came as Ryanair insisted that a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday would not change the position of thousands of crew members who work for the carrier under Irish contracts and would not hit its cost base.

The ECJ ruled in a case related to six Ryanair workers based in Belgium that a jurisdiction clause that sought to prevent employees from bringing proceedings before courts outside Ireland was not enforceable against those employees.

It effectively means that Ryanair crew can have disputes regarding employment contracts held in the country where they habitually carry out their work, rather than in Ireland, the country where the contracts are drafted.