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Wed, Dec 03, 2008

Ryanair Launches New Bid For Aer Lingus

This Time Around, Gov't Willing To Talk

What a difference two years and a deep recession can make.

In 2006, Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair made a run at acquiring its only major domestic rival, Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus, for about 1.5 billion euro. The economy was booming, Ireland was awash in tax revenue... and the government, unions, management and shareholders of Aer Lingus all hated the deal, so it went nowhere, even though Aer Lingus was losing money.

The Wall Street Journal reports Ireland is now sharing in the deep worldwide recession, the government is running deficits, Aer Lingus is still in the red, and Ryanair is back again. But this time, the offer is only half the amount offered two years ago.

The unions and executives of Aer Lingus are still opposed... but this time around, despite the much lower offer, the government says it will look the deal. Holding roughly a quarter of the company shares, the government's position is seen as crucial.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary points out that economic upheaval and continuing consolidation in Europe's airline industry leave no chance for Aer Lingus to remain viable on its own. Amid concerns for consumers, he points out that Aer Lingus has increased fares and added fees since his last offer.

"The world has changed" since 2006, O'Leary said. "We think what will be most influential to EU regulators will be the Irish government's attitude... Our focus this week will be on persuading the Irish government and Aer Lingus the benefits of the deal."

He adds employee shareholders would get more than 137 million euro in cash, and the government more than 188 million, if the bid is successful. He also thinks he can create a thousand new jobs over the first few years of combined operations.

Ryanair has asked for a meeting with the board of Aer Lingus as soon as possible to explain its position.

FMI: www.ryanair.com, www.aerlingus.com

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