Landmark EC decision stops Ryainair’s Aer Lingus takeover

The European Commission has blocked Ryanair’s hostile €1.48bn (£1bn) bid for Irish airline Aer Lingus on competition grounds.

The move was a rare one for the Commission, which last made such a block in 2004. It has also cleared airline mergers between national carriers in the past, such as that of Air France and KLM.

Ryanair’s £1bn bid can now no longer proceed, although the budget airline announced in a press conference today that it will appeal the regulator’s decision at the European Court of First Instance.

A&L Goodbody advised Ryanair on the original bid tabled in October just days after Aer Lingus’ IPO on the Irish Stock Exchange. It also advised Ryanair on the Commission’s six-month Phase II investigation that has led to the block. Norton Rose and Irish firm Arthur Cox advised Aer Lingus on its defence.

Linklaters advised Aer Lingus on competition issues. The magic circle firm’s global co-head of competition Alec Burnside said: “The decision is the longest in the history of European merger control. It is the first prohibition by the European Commission since 2004 and only the 20th ever, out of the 3,500 cases reviewed since 1990. It’s also the first prohibition under the sole control of Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes since she took office in September 2004.”