Ryanair has acted to comply with EU airline ownership rules in the event of a no-deal Brexit in October by announcing an intended buy-back of €700-million worth of UK-held shares.
Dublin-based budget giant Ryanair announced the ‘block purchase’ of 6% of its shares to enable it to meet EC rules requiring European airlines be 51% owned by EU investors.
Ryanair would lose the right to fly anywhere in the EU given its current shareholders’ status if Britain left the EU with no deal on October 31, the current leave date.
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The carrier’s EU shareholding would fall to 45% if the UK leaves at October’s end.
The EU-UK withdrawal agreement negotiated by outgoing prime minister Theresa May, would allow the existing arrangements to continue while future trade and aviation arrangements are negotiated.
However, the agreement has been repeatedly rejected by the UK Parliament and both Conservative Party contenders to replace May, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have declared the deal “dead”.
In a statement, Ryanair said the block purchase of shares from UK holders “will, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, limit the proportionate number of shares held by or on behalf of non-EU shareholders”.
Ryanair has previously warned UK shareholders they would lose investors’ voting rights in the event of no deal.
The carrier has suggested it would take four to eight months for it to align investors’ shareholdings with EU rules.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary conceded in May: “This is not a time when anybody should be buying shares.”
The EU has confirmed the ownership and control rules would not apply immediately if Britain leaves with no deal. It would allow airlines some months to comply before applying the rules and limiting flying rights.
IAG, owner of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, remains furthest from complying with the rules but has given no indication that it is concerned.
Asked how IAG intends to comply, chief executive Willie Walsh has said “by magic”.