Guarantees for Aer Lingus sale offered by IAG
The airline group poised to buy Aer Lingus has made a last-ditch series of pledges to the Government.
International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh promised to leave ownership of slots at Heathrow with the flag carrier if the Government backs its €1.35bn takeover bid.
The State owns 25.1pc of Aer Lingus.
The move comes after Taoiseach Enda Kenny called for IAG to give “cast iron permanent guarantees” on Irish routes to the UK.
There is growing political unease over the proposed sale of the airline, and IAG has moved to quell some of the concerns.
IAG has also pledged to retain Aer Lingus’ name and keep its headquarters in Ireland.
The group also said it is prepared to offer a further commitment to operate the slots on Irish routes for five years.
In the detailed submission, Mr Walsh said IAG was committed to enhancing Aer Lingus’ connectivity with Heathrow.
“We propose to offer the Irish Government legally binding commitments that go well beyond the protections currently available to it,” he said.
“These commitments would give the Irish Government an important role that they do not have today in securing the future of Aer Lingus.”
Despite the concessions, senior members of both government parties said the deal will not be supported.
Senior Labour sources insisted that the pledges from IAG “do nothing to address the concern about jobs”, while Fine Gael ministers predicted that the offer has very little chance of being accepted. Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said the commitments “rang hollow” and the five-year guarantee fell “well short of the mark”.
“Fianna Fail remains entirely opposed to the sale of the Government’s stake, believing the takeover has the potential to undermine Ireland’s connectivity, as well as having a negative impact on jobs,” Mr Dooley said.
IAG has made its bid conditional on acceptance by Ryanair and the Government, they being the largest and second-largest shareholders in Aer Lingus.
Ryanair said it had not yet been formally approached for its shares in Aer Lingus.
A review group established by the Government to advise on the Aer Lingus bid is now expected to enter a negotiating process with IAG.