herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Willie Walsh hits back at billionaire Trump on Aer Lingus deal

Willie Walsh
Willie Walsh

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has said he is in no hurry to seal a deal on Aer Lingus.

But he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding a potential sale could be creating a distraction for management at the former flag carrier.

Mr Walsh said IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has nothing to hide in its pursuit of Aer Lingus and he claimed the company had been clear about its interests.

He also took a swipe at US billionaire Donald Trump and Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson, both of whom have criticised the proposed deal, saying he would prefer to listen to the views of those in Ireland who know what they're talking about.

"We've nothing to hide. We've been very clear about our interests in relation to Aer Lingus," Mr Walsh said, at a breakfast event yesterday organised by head-hunting consultants Merc Partners.

"I think our interests are very genuine and we believe that Aer Lingus will flourish as part of IAG. We want to acquire Aer Lingus within IAG to grow it."

IAG is bidding for Aer Lingus, which has been valued at €1.4bn, but has yet to win over both the Government, as the State holds a 25.1pc stake, and trade unions which have accused IAG of giving vague assurances.

Competition

The proposed sale has attracted international attention from the likes of Mr Trump, who owns Doonbeg Golf Course in Co Clare, and Mr Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic has said it would contact the European Commission over concerns that the IAG deal would adversely impact on competition.

But Mr Walsh dismissed the concerns of both men.

"I don't think their position should influence. I would be more interested by the interventions of those in Ireland who understand the issue," he said.

He added that it would be interesting for Virgin to appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to explain their interests in the Irish market.

He said he was in "no hurry" to reach a deal, adding IAG would spend time to "get to the right decision".

But he added he recognised that the uncertainty around the potential sale may be distracting for Aer Lingus management.

"I recognise that others have expressed an interest in seeing it resolved sooner rather than later and I can understand that. From an Aer Lingus point of view, the uncertainty may well be a distraction."

hnews@herald.ie

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