Ryanair is making a third attempt to take over Aer Lingus, having announced after stock markets closed last night that it intends to make a cash offer for the rival Irish airline that values it at £561m.
Two earlier attempts by Ryanair to seize control of the Irish national carrier have been blocked by the European Commission but it has managed to build up a 29% stake in Aer Lingus since the latter airline was privatized in 2006.
However, the UK Competition Commission announced on Friday that it planned to investigate Ryanair's existing holding in Aer Lingus, which could lead to the budget carrier being forced to sell its stake.
Etihad announced last month its intention to acquire a 2.9% share of Aer Lingus and Ryanair issued a statement last night inviting the Middle East carrier and other airlines to make a rival bid for the Irish government's remaining 25% stake in the airline.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "This offer represents a significant opportunity to combine Aer Lingus with Ryanair, to form one strong Irish airline group capable of competing with Europe's other major airlines, led by Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa.
"Since the European Commission recently approved BA's takeover of British Midland, and Etihad recently invested in Aer Lingus, we believe now is the time to focus on the right long-term strategic partner for Aer Lingus.
"Ryanair believes that its new offer for Aer Lingus now provides Etihad or any other party with the opportunity to bid for the Government's 25%, should they wish to do so."
Ryanair added that it would be willing to sell its stake to another bidder or work with them in partnership.
By Linsey McNeill
Wednesday June 20th 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012