IAG bullish on €113m takeover bid for Vueling

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IAG is confident of completing its takeover bid for Vueling despite shareholder pressure for a higher valuation, management said in an earnings briefing on 28 February.

The airline group plans to maintain the Spanish low-cost carrier as a "standalone entity" within the IAG umbrella, chief executive Willie Walsh said, rather than absorbing it into the operations of fellow member Iberia Express.

"The focus is on the integration of Vueling into the group and allowing it to do what it's done, and do more of it," Walsh said. "It's an excellent standalone...The real opportunity is for it to continue to develop as it's developed."

Earlier this month, IAG told Reuters that it would not raise its €7 per share offer for Vueling, which amounted to a valuation of €113 million ($148 million) for the 54.15% shareholding that it does not already own.

Spanish media reports had earlier claimed that the group was considering increasing its offer after Vueling shareholders expressed unease about the valuation. The original offer represented a 28% premium on its market capitalisation.

Walsh said that if IAG's bid is successful then Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz will be retained in his current role.

In a veiled reference to the possibility of further negotiations, IAG chief financial officer Enrique Dupuy added: "We may have an opportunity to agree with Vueling about the price that they judge as a fair price."

He said that regulations allow Vueling 10 days to respond after the Spanish National Securities Market Commission formally approved the offer on 27 February. Vueling then has a further five days to negotiate a modified offer or seek an extension.

Earlier this week, the Spanish low-cost carrier posted a full-year 2012 net profit of €28.3 million.