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Ryanair Probe Over Aer Lingus Stake Ongoing, U.K. Regulator Says

The U.K. Competition Commission said its antitrust probe into Ryanair Holdings Plc’s 30-percent stake in competing carrier Aer Lingus Group Plc will continue during the airline’s lawsuit in Britain to block the investigation.

Ryanair, which started a bid last month to buy the rest of Aer Lingus for 694 million euros ($853 million), sued to block the watchdog from investigating the minority stake it acquired six years ago, arguing it would now overlap with a possible merger probe by the European Union’s competition regulator.

The Competition Commission corrected today a statement it made yesterday that the investigation would effectively be put on hold during the lawsuit at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London, due to an expected lack of cooperation from Ryanair.

The probe “will continue in the meantime, although clearly we’ll be restricted by the fact that Ryanair is unlikely to play any part until the judgment,” Rory Taylor, a spokesman for the regulator, said in an e-mail.

The two carriers, both based in Dublin, carry more than 80 percent of the 370,000 passengers that travel between the U.K. and Ireland each month, regulators have said. The probe started after another U.K. regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, flagged it for review, saying the Ryanair stake could lead to higher prices.

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