Ryanair dismisses government block on Aer Lingus sale

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Ryanair has dismissed as irrelevant an Irish transport ministry statement that it is not prepared to sell the government's Aer Lingus shareholding to the budget carrier under current conditions.

After the Irish cabinet examined a possible sale of the government's 25% stake in Aer Lingus, in light of Ryanair's latest bid to take over the flag-carrier, it decided that competition concerns had not been adequately resolved.

"Based on what is now in the public domain, the Ryanair remedies package does not satisfy our concerns about connectivity, competitiveness or employment for Ireland," says transport minister Leo Varadkar.

He says the government is committed to selling the stake "at the right time, under the right conditions", but adds that it is "not prepared to support" any offer that would undermine competition.

But Ryanair says the government has "no power" to block its offer for Aer Lingus because it holds only a limited stake.

Ryanair already has 30% of Aer Lingus and says its takeover can still be "successfully completed" if it acquires a shareholding of 50% or more.

It adds that it has submitted "unprecedented" remedies to the European Commission which, the airline claims, will benefit Ireland and "increase competition, choice, traffic and jobs".

The Commission, which has blocked previous attempts by Ryanair to acquire Aer Lingus, is still considering the latest bid.

Ryanair has signed preliminary agreements with International Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways, as part of a proposed remedy package aimed at securing approval.