MINISTER for Finance Michael Noonan has said any government decision on the Aer Lingus takeover will be made “in the interests of connectivity and jobs”.
Minister Noonan prefaced his first comments on the takeover bid that has caused such concern in his constituency by saying, as the holder of the 25.1% stake on behalf of the state, he was legally constrained by in his remarks.
While IAG has said it would like the government’s approval for its bid, industry observers have stated British Airways’ parent group does not actually need it. While TDs in Limerick are frosty on a bid that could potentially threaten Shannon’s links to Heathrow, there is concern over the comments of Minister Brendan Howlin and others emphasising that the government is a minority shareholder.
Speaking in Limerick on Friday, Minister Noonan said that morning’s purchase of 10% of IAG by Qatar Airways could also change matters.
“I’m in a difficult legal position because even though the Department of Transport under Minister Paschal Donohoe will set out the policy and advise the government, I am actually the shareholder,” Minister Noonan said.
“I hold the shares on behalf of the Irish state and I have been legally advised that it would be inappropriate for me to comment in any way as we are what they call an offer period.
“But I think things are changing. I check Bloomberg every morning and this morning I read one of the gulf carriers had offered to buy almost 10% of IAG. So there is a change imminent as well in the parent group that are bidding for Aer Lingus so I would refer you to what the Taoiseach said yesterday in that it is the government’s position that anything the government decides will be in the national interest and will be in the interests of connectivity and jobs and in the interests of the country. “There are only two ways of getting on and off this island, by boat or by plane, so we want to make sure everything works out very satisfactorily.”