The U.K. Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has referred Ryanair’s completed acquisition of a minority stake in Aer Lingus to the Competition Commission. Ryanair purchased 29.82 percent of Aer Lingus in 2006, but the OFT was unable to investigate the deal until 2010 because the European Commission and European Courts were reviewing Ryanair’s bid for outright control of Aer Lingus. The OFT’s investigation was put on hold in January 2011 when Ryanair challenged the probe by arguing that the OFT did not begin its investigation in time. Earlier this month, the U.K. Supreme Court denied Ryanair’s request to appeal a U.K. Court of Appeal ruling that allowed the OFT probe of the airline’s stake in rival Aer Lingus to continue. In rejecting the request, the Court held that Ryanair does not have the right to appeal the decision.
The OFT’s decision to refer Ryanair’s minority holding in Aer Lingus stems from its concerns that Ryanair will be able to use its stake to influence the rival airline: Ryanair and Aer Lingus carry over 80 percent of traffic between the U.K. and Ireland. The OFT believes “there is a realistic prospect that its stake has resulted or will result in a substantial lessening of competition on a number of Ryanair and/or Aer Lingus routes between the UK and Ireland.”
Full content: OFT Press Release
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