Aer Lingus Seeks Trans-Atlantic Pact as Alternative to Alliance

Aer Lingus (AERL) Group Plc plans to join a trans-Atlantic airline venture in the next few years after scrapping plans to become a member of a global alliance, Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller said in an interview.

The Irish carrier decided against alliance membership in August because of the cost, and regards one of three antitrust- immune trans-Atlantic pacts involving British Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) and Air France-KLM (AF) Group as offering better value, Mueller said in London, adding that it aims to enlist by 2013.

Bilateral accords in which Aer Lingus would fly connecting traffic to the hubs of partners are also being pursued, he said while declining to disclose details.

Aer Lingus doesn’t need investment from a larger carrier to ensure its survival, the CEO said. The Irish government has said it may auction a 25 percent stake in the carrier next year to pay down debt, while Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA) has said it could sell its 29 percent of stock after being thwarted by regulators in successive attempts at a full takeover.

“We have the financial strength to keep our independence,” Mueller said. “Do we need a big brother coming in, a trade investor? Definitely not.”

Aer Lingus has break-up value 1.27 billion euros, the CEO said, and a market capitalization of 342 million euros.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Rothwell in London at srothwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Jasper at cjasper@bloomberg.net

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