Ireland mulls sale of 25% Aer Lingus stake

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Ireland's government appears to be considering selling its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus.

The country's transport minister, Leo Varadkar, told local media yesterday that the government no longer views its stake as strategically important, indicating that a sale could be possible.

Ryanair, which with a near-30% stake is Aer Lingus's largest shareholder, responded that it would not rule out selling its stake too, if it was not allowed to make a bid and a "financially strong airline or investor" for the government shareholding could be found.

The budget airline said it would refrain from bidding if its offer was "unwelcome".

Ryanair has tried twice to acquire the administration's share. The second offer was turned down by the government in January 2009, citing competitive concerns. Shortly thereafter, the airline said that it was doubtful whether it would "waste any further management time or resources making another offer".

Yesterday Ryanair also said that it would consider the option of keeping its stake and working together with a "like-minded" investor for the government stock to "restore shareholder value".