Ireland: Time Not Right To Sell Aer Lingus Stake

June 19, 2013

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Ireland's government does not think the time is right for it to sell its 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, the minister in charge of the country's privatisation plan said on Wednesday.

Dublin said it would consider the sale of its remaining stake in the former state carrier two years ago and that it was determined to find a buyer once market conditions improved when it detailed its state asset sales plan in February last year.

However, spending minister Brendan Howlin said on Wednesday that an investigation into rival Ryanair's 29.8 percent shareholding in Aer Lingus had complicated the planned disposal of the state's stake.

Britain's Competition Commission said last month that it may force Ryanair to sell its entire stake in Aer Lingus after an investigation concluded that the holding allows the low-cost giant to influence strategy at its smaller Irish rival.

The commission will give a final ruling in July.

"These matters will continue to be taken into account in the government's plans... At the present moment, however, it is the government's view that optimal conditions do not exist for a sale of the government's remaining shareholding just now," Howlin told a parliamentary committee.

"Nevertheless, the government remains open to considering opportunities to dispose of its shareholding and will, in the meantime, continue to manage the holding in a responsible manner in order to protect the state's interests and with the aim of maximising its value."

(Reuters)