On February 27, 2013, the European Commission prohibited Ryanair’s proposed acquisition of Aer Lingus after an in-depth investigation. The European Commission prohibited Ryanair’s first bid for Aer Lingus in 2007 – a decision that was upheld on appeal to the General Court. After an abortive bid in December 2008, which was withdrawn when the Irish Government expressed its opposition to the bid, Ryanair announced a third bid in June 2012.
The in-depth investigation found that the market positions of Ryanair and Aer Lingus have become even stronger since 2007 and identified competition concerns on 46 overlap routes. Ryanair offered remedies which involved “divestiture” of Aer Lingus’ operations on 43 overlap routes to Flybe and the transfer of slots to IAG at London airports. The Commission concluded that these remedies were insufficient to remove competition concerns, finding that Flybe was not a suitable purchaser, and that IAG would not constrain the merged entity and would have little incentive to remain on the routes beyond a 3 year period. In addition the EC could not conclude with sufficient certainty that the commitments could be implemented in a timely fashion.
An inquiry by the UK Competition Commission into Ryanair’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus is ongoing.
Aer Lingus opposed Ryanair’s hostile bid and CRA advised Aer Lingus throughout the process.