Ryanair (RYA) Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount airline, offered fresh concessions to European Union antitrust regulators reviewing its 694 million-euro ($896 million) bid for Aer Lingus Group Plc. (AERL)
The EU’s antitrust authority in Brussels extended until Feb. 27 its deadline to rule on the deal, according to a website filing today. It didn’t give details of Ryanair’s offer. The carrier’s previous offer to allay possible antitrust problems failed to convince regulators who didn’t send it to rival airlines for their comments, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Ryanair, which owns 29.8 percent of Aer Lingus, in June renewed its pursuit to buy the rest of the smaller competitor to bolster its Irish operation, five years after the EU blocked an earlier takeover attempt because it would create a monopoly for Irish flights. The bid has also drawn opposition from Aer Lingus management and Irish politicians.
Ryanair last month received formal antitrust objections from the European Commission, listing the regulator’s competition concerns with the deal. The antitrust agency said in August that the takeover could eliminate competition on a large number of routes because the two airlines are each other’s closest competitors and few new competitors are likely.
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said in September that the company would consider selling its Aer Lingus stake if regulators turned down a “revolutionary” package of concessions. The airline has said it could exit all 46 Dublin routes that overlap with Aer Lingus and that several rival carriers are interested in competing at Irish airports.
Ryanair is also facing a full investigation by the U.K.’s Competition Commission of its holding in the smaller carrier after the national regulator said it may lead to higher prices.
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