Shortly after 8 a.m. Ryanair advised that it had acquired over 16% of the issued share capital of Aer Lingus and announced its intention to make an all cash offer of €2.80 per share for the issued share capital of Aer Lingus not already in the ownership of Ryanair. This announcement by Ryanair was made without any forewarning. I was made aware of the announcement by the chairman of Aer Lingus and in a phone call from the chief executive of Ryanair at roughly the same time as the announcement was made to the public.
From the outset in regard to the Aer Lingus IPO the Government has been committed to ensuring that our strategic interests are protected. It was always the intention to maintain a significant minority shareholding for this purpose and that remains the position. The State's shareholding is about 28.3%. Aer Lingus, as a result of the IPO, now has the means at its disposal to fulfil its potential and contribute in a positive way to the country's economic development.
Ireland's strategic interest in aviation is best served by the provision of regular, safe, cost-effective and competitive air services linking the country to key business and tourism markets around the world, and that remains the case. The Government remains fully committed to competition in aviation markets.
On the basis of the information available to date I do not consider that the Government's strategic objectives would be well served by a take-over of Aer Lingus by Ryanair. It clearly raises fundamental questions in regard to aviation policy, competition and regulation issues and all these questions will have to be examined carefully.
It is in the first instance a matter for the board of directors of the company to evaluate any Ryanair offer and to express an opinion to shareholders. It is also the case that any proposal of this kind would require regulatory clearance from a competition perspective and it remains to be clarified as to how this would handled by the appropriate competition authorities.
The deputy chief executive of Ryanair has indicated that it will post the formal offer document in two weeks which will set out further details of the offer. I am consulting advisers and will evaluate all the strategic and policy issues arising. Until these matters have been examined further I cannot give any further information on this matter.