September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is reviewing Ryanair’s acquisition of a minority stake in fellow Irish carrier Aer Lingus.
Between September 2006 and August 2007, Ryanair bought a 29.82% stake in the Aer Lingus Group, which it still owns.
Sheldon Mills, director of mergers at the OFT, said: “The OFT opened an investigation into Ryanair’s minority stake in Aer Lingus because it believes that it potentially raises competition concerns.”
Ryanair attempted a full takeover of Aer Lingus in 2006, but this was blocked by the OFT in 2007.
The no-frills carrier has accused the OFT of being legally out of time, saying it should have investigated Ryanair’s minority stake in Aer Lingus five years ago.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, said the OFT’s query into the failed merger between Ryanair and Aer Lingus is a “baseless, wild goose chase”.
The airline’s lawyers will appeal the OFT’s claim it is not out of time, said O’Leary: “We believe that the OFT’s failure to act in 2007 will be independently verified, thereby clearly establishing that the OFT is now out of time.”
The OFT, however, claims it is within its rights to launch the enquiry, saying it had not done so earlier as appeals relating to Ryanair’s full takeover bid were ongoing at the European Courts until recently.
Now these are completed, the OFT maintains it is in time to review the minority stake.
Mills said the case raises “important legal and policy issues" in relation to whether competition authorities should be able to apply national merger control legislation whilst related appeals are ongoing.
He said: “We believe that an interpretation of the law that could lead to inconsistent outcomes at national and European level risks undermining the coherence of merger control in the EU.”