A UK probe into Ryanair’s shareholding in Aer Lingus has been given the go-ahead.
The budget carrier lost an appeal that the inquiry undermined a separate European Commission investigation into its bid to takeover its Irish rival.
The UK Competition Commission won the right to pursue its investigation into whether Ryanair carries undue influence over Aer Lingus, in which it holds a 29.8% shareholding.
Aer Lingus welcomed the decision, calling it “a key milestone on the path toward Ryanair being required to divest its shareholding in Aer Lingus”.
But Ryanair said it would ask the UK’s supreme court to hear another appeal.
That could further delay the UK Competition Commission’s probe, though the regulator might also decide to push ahead while the supreme court considers taking on the case, the Financial Times reported.
Either way, the regulator would probably not publish its initial findings before next March – after the European Commission is expected to rule on the takeover bid.
Ryanair said the UK probe contravenes the principle of “sincere co-operation” between the EU and member states.
But that argument may be weakened by the fact that the UK Competition Commission will now report after its European counterpart.
The prospects of European regulators approving Ryanair’s third bid for Aer Lingus look poor.
People involved in talks between the EU and the airline say Ryanair has been told its package of “revolutionary” remedies to competition concerns has fallen short, according to the FT.
Meanwhile, Julie O’Neill, former secretary-general of Ireland’s transport department, and PayPal executive Louise Phelan are joining the board of Ryanair while German businessman Klaus Kirchberger is stepping down after 10 years.
O’Neill is also a director of Ireland’s Sustainable Energy Authority.