OFT to investigate Ryanair’s Aer Lingus stake after failed Supreme Court bid

The Office of Fair Trading has been given the green light to investigate Ryanair’s minority stake in Aer Lingus after being refused a Supreme Court hearing.

As reported in The Lawyer last month,Monckton Chambers silk Daniel Beard won a long-running case for the OFT (23 May 2012).  The Court of Appeal ruled on the fallout from Ryanair’s blocked 2006 buyout attempt of rival Irish airline Aer Lingus.

The OFT’s case was supported by Aer Lingus, which turned to Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft partner Alec Burnside, Linklaters partner Eamonn Doran and Brick Court Chambers’ James Flynn QC.

Ryanair had been represented in the Court of Appeal by Blackstone Chambers’ Lord Pannick QC and Brian Kennelly, and was appealing against a Competition Appeal Tribunal ruling over the takeover.

After losing that judgment, Ryanair instructed Covington & Burling counsel Richard Mattick to apply for the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

But as that bid was unsuccessful the way is paved for OFT to look at whether Ryanair should be forced to sell its 25 per cent holding in Aer Lingus.

An Aer Lingus statement said: “We welcome today’s refusal by the UK Supreme Court to grant Ryanair leave to appeal against the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal that the Office of Fair Trading is ’in time’ to investigate Ryanair’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus under the UK’s merger control legislation. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision brings to an end Ryanair’s challenge to the validity of the OFT’s decision to commence its investigation into Ryanair’s minority shareholding in September 2010.  The OFT can now proceed swiftly to complete its investigation into Ryanair’s shareholding which is contrary to the interests of consumers and the majority of Aer Lingus’ shareholders.”