Ryanair faces more extensive objections to its third takeover bid for Aer Lingus than when Brussels first blocked a tie-up five years ago.
The European Commission’s “statement of objections”, issued last week, argues the merged Irish carrier would hold a more dominant position than in 2007, with an effective stranglehold over more than 40 routes, the Financial Times reported, quoting people familiar with its contents.
The doubts suggest that Ryanair has a tougher task in Brussels than with its first bid for Aer Lingus, which was barred in 2007 on the grounds that the combined group would have a monopoly on 22 routes and be dominant on a further 13.
The commission served its charges after rejecting what Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described as a “revolutionary” remedies package to secure regulatory approval.
Ryanair said it had found airlines willing to provide services on routes that would otherwise be dominated by the merged Irish carrier.
But Brussels made clear the proposals failed to address all the routes with competition problems.
The commission reportedly found the measures so unsatisfactory it decided against asking rival airlines to comment on the details – the usual step in assessing concessions.
The commission also dismissed Ryanair’s claim that the merger would bring efficiency gains that would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices and improved services.
Ryanair declined to comment on the commission’s stance beyond saying: “We are confident that the remedies are radical and hopefully get us over the line [with the commission] this time.”
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