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Ryanair plans new bid for Aer Lingus

By Graeme Evans

Low-cost carrier Ryanair revived its takeover interest in Dublin-based airline Aer Lingus today.

Announcing its intention to make an offer for Aer Lingus, the budget carrier said it planned to merge the two airlines into "one strong Irish airline group" while still operating as two distinctive brands.

Ryanair said it had requested a meeting with the chairman and board representatives of Aer Lingus, as well as Irish government officials.

Today's approach comes two years after the Aer Lingus board rejected previous takeover interest from Ryanair, calling the £1 billion offer "ill-conceived, contradictory and anti-competitive".

Aer Lingus floated on the London and Dublin stock exchanges in 2006 and within days Ryanair began snapping up shares before going public with its takeover interest. It currently owns 29.8 per cent of the carrier.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said today's new proposal valued Aer Lingus at a premium of 25 per cent to the company's closing price on Friday.

He added: "This proposed merger of Ryanair and Aer Lingus will form one Irish airline group with the financial strength to compete with Europe's three major airline groups - Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa."

The proposed offer price of 1.4 euros a share values Aer Lingus at around €747.5m (£617.8m).

Ryanair said it was committed to doubling the size of the Aer Lingus short-haul fleet from 33 to 66 aircraft over the next five years - creating 1,000 new Aer Lingus jobs in the period.

The Luton-based company said much had changed in the airline industry since Aer Lingus rejected its previous approach in 2006.

It added: "Ryanair believes that Aer Lingus is an isolated, uncompetitive, loss-making EU flag carrier which has deteriorated dramatically as a result of high oil prices and the global recession.

"Ryanair believes that Aer Lingus needs to find a strong airline partner to secure its future."

Aer Lingus's short-haul service operates from Dublin, Cork and Belfast to 59 destinations in the UK and continental Europe. It also has a long-haul network comprising services from Shannon and Dublin to the United States.

Ryanair currently offers 1,040 scheduled short-haul flights per day serving 148 European locations, with an operating fleet of 108 aircraft.

Belfast Telegraph


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