Press: O’Leary believes Aer Lingus staff will back bid

Ryanair Holdings PLC boss Michael O’Leary believes staff at Aer Lingus Group PLC could yet support his surprise 1 billion sterling bid for the Irish national carrier, despite the trenchant opposition of trade unions and the Dublin government, The Sunday Times reported. O’Leary reportedly told the newspaper that the cash offered—2.8 eur a share—was a powerful incentive to airline workers and that a way could be found around potential tax penalties.

Individual Aer Lingus staff own thousands of shares through an employee share ownership plan that amounts to a 12 pct stake.

‘There are baggage handlers here in Dublin who could be looking at 60,000 eur. I would be very surprised if the employee share ownership plan does not in the end vote in favour of our bid,’ O’Leary said.

However, the newspaper said sources close to Aer Lingus scoffed at the idea that the employee share plan might vote for O’Leary, saying the special tax advantages enjoyed by the scheme would be lost if the bid was accepted.

‘The other point is that most of the staff at Aer Lingus frankly regard O’Leary as the devil incarnate,’ one company adviser reportedly told the newspaper.

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The Ryanair bid came only days after Aer Lingus floated in Dublin and London.

Ryanair is expected to issue an offer document within weeks. City sources said it was likely the airline would gauge the attitude of competition authorities to its bid, and then consider an increase, perhaps up to 3.00 eur a share, according to the article.

A separate article in The Sunday Telegraph said Irish trade unions have reportedly threatened O’Leary with industrial action if Ryanair gains control of Aer Lingus.

Over the weekend, plans have emerged in the Irish press to reduce Aer Lingus’ annual costs from 800 mln eur to 650 mln eur, with the loss of 1,000 jobs.
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