Ryanair: Aer Lingus has few better options than takeover

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Ryanair claims Aer Lingus has few other attractive options than to accept its new takeover bid if the Irish flag-carrier is to remain competitive in European air transport.

The budget airline is prepared to commit to doubling Aer Lingus' short-haul fleet to 66 aircraft over the next five years to build a substantial consolidated operation.

Ryanair outlined the plan today as part of a fresh attempt to acquire Aer Lingus through a cash offer of €1.40 ($1.77) per share. Under the proposal the two brands would remain separate but become part of the same group, managed and based in Dublin.

The budget airline is seeking meetings with Ireland's ministers for finance and transport, as well as with Aer Lingus management, to put its case for the takeover.

"Ireland will establish one of Europe's 'big four' airlines which will be financially strong," says Ryanair, adding that Aer Lingus' London Heathrow slots will provide "connectivity" for the country.

Aer Lingus passengers would benefit from a €100 million saving through elimination of long-haul fuel surcharges, it states, while another €40 million saving would come from average short-haul fares being cut by 5% for three years.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary says: "Aer Lingus, as a small, stand-alone, regional airline has been marginalised and bypassed as most other EU flag carriers consolidate."

The budget carrier describes Aer Lingus as "isolated" and "uncompetitive", adding that it is "overly-dependent on a deteriorating Irish economy" and "significantly more exposed" to global recession.

"In addition, we believe that Aer Lingus has few realistic third-party alternatives," it adds. "The board of Ryanair believes that a sale of Aer Lingus to one of the three other large mega-carriers...Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa represents a very unattractive outcome for all of Aer Lingus' stakeholders."

Ryanair, which would make the cash offer for Aer Lingus through its Coinside subsidiary, claims the Irish Government will receive more than €188 million in cash through the deal while employee-linked funds would obtain a further €137 million.

Aer Lingus' chairman would, as part of a takeover agreement, be invited to join the Ryanair board.

Ryanair says the offer depends on acceptance by shareholders representing at least 90% of Aer Lingus' capital, as well as crucial regulatory clearance from the European Union. Failure to secure EU approval scuppered a previous Ryanair attempt to take over Aer Lingus.