European Commission to probe Ryanair's £549m bid for Aer Lingus

One of the airline industry’s longest running takeover sagas again hit turbulence when the European Commission said it would examine Ryanair’s £549million bid for Irish rival Aer Lingus.

The Commission said it would launch ‘an in-depth investigation’ because many of the routes out of Ireland into the rest of Europe are only served by these two airlines.

‘The takeover could therefore lead to the elimination of actual and potential competition on a large number of these routes,’ the Commission said.

Irish dogfight: Ryanair's third £549million bid for Aer Lingus is to be probed by the European Commission for the second time

Irish dogfight: Ryanair's third £549million bid for Aer Lingus is to be probed by the European Commission for the second time

Ryanair, led by flamboyant chief executive Michael O’Leary, dropped its third tilt at Aer Lingus with ‘immediate effect’. The no-frills carrier said it ‘intends to re-bid for Aer Lingus if the European Commission clears its offer’.

The Commission said it will decide whether to clear or block the deal by January 14.


Ryanair, which owns just over 29 per cent in Aer Lingus, made its latest bid for the Irish flag-carrier in June.

Aer Lingus management has consistently opposed each bid as being bad for shareholders and passengers.

The flag carrier said: ‘The number of routes into and out of Ireland on which Aer Lingus and Ryanair compete has sharply increased since 2007. The reasons for prohibition are therefore even stronger.’

Analysts view Ryanair’s latest tilt at Aer Lingus as yet another long shot.

Aer Lingus closed at 85.5p on the Irish Stock Exchange, and has never ended the day above Ryanair’s June bid price of 103p a share, which means investors think there is little chance of the deal being cleared by regulators.

However, analysts say Ryanair has always coveted the lucrative slots Aer Lingus has at key airports around the world from London’s Heathrow to JFK in New York. O’Leary has always left the door open to one day launching a transatlantic no-frills service.

Bruce Kilpatrick, head of competition law at city lawyers Addleshaw Goddard, said: ‘Ryanair will be trying to persuade the European Commission that the market has evolved in recent years and that the logic underpinning the previous decision no longer applies.’

Earlier this month Ryanair approached at least six airlines asking them to consider providing services on some of the routes jointly operated by it and Aer Lingus.

However, there was little interest from these carriers in providing services out of Ireland.