Thursday, Aug 16, 2012
-- Etihad not in talks with Ryanair; could be interested in its Aer Lingus stake
-- Sees Dublin as a strong and profitable route
-- Etihad already has 3% stake in Aer Lingus, which rebuffed Ryanair takeover bid last month
(Recasts, adds detail and background throughout)
DOHA (Zawya Dow Jones)--Etihad Airways, which favors growth through strategic alliances, Thursday voiced interest in Ryanair Holdings' (RYAAY) 30% stake in Aer Lingus Group PLC (EIL1.DB), less than a month after the Irish national carrier rebuffed a takeover approach by the low-cost airline.
Abu Dhabi-owned Etihad said it would be happy to enter talks with the Dublin-based no-frills carrier about its holding in Aer Lingus, but denied it is in discussions with the company.
"As stated on several occasions, Dublin is a strong and profitable route for Etihad Airways and we're very keen to strengthen our partnership there," Etihad said in a statement. "If approached by Ryanair we would be happy to have a discussion about the stake, and evaluate the opportunity as we would any other commercial proposition."
Aer Lingus declined to comment Thursday. Ryanair couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Etihad's comments could add pressure on Ryanair to sell its stake in Aer Lingus after it launched a third bid for 694 million euros ($845 million) for its Irish rival in June that could again fail to clinch regulatory approval from the European Union. Ryanair has twice before failed to buy Aer Lingus over antitrust concerns. Both airlines share many routes.
The European Commission is scheduled to give its verdict on the deal on Aug. 29.
Etihad, meanwhile, has snapped up a string of minority stakes in airlines this year such as Air Berlin PLC (AB1.XE) and Virgin Australia Holdings (VAH) as it looks to forge commercial alliances to boost traffic through its hub in Abu Dhabi and gain a better foothold in the lucrative Asian-European market.
It bought nearly 3% of Aer Lingus earlier in the year, and it could up its holding further with the Irish government's 25% stake in the national carrier up for sale, something that Etihad have expressed interest in. Etihad currently codeshares with Aer Lingus.
At 1522 GMT, Aer Lingus shares traded up 0.4% at EUR1.07 in Dublin.
-By Alex Delmar-Morgan, Dow Jones Newswires; +974 6659 9818; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @ZDJnews
(END) Dow Jones Newswires