Don’t Listen to Trump on Aer Lingus, IAG CEO Tells Irish

IAG SA Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said Donald Trump shouldn’t sway the Irish government as it weighs the fate of Aer Lingus Group Plc.

Trump wrote to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny urging him not to sell the state’s 25 percent Aer Lingus stake to London-based IAG, which wants to take over the carrier, the Irish Independent reported this month. IAG is offering about 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) for Aer Lingus.

“I’m more interested in the interventions by people in Ireland who understand this issue,” Walsh told reporters in Dublin on Tuesday. Trump has “got a little golf course down in Doonbeg, which is very close to Shannon Airport,” he said.

Aer Lingus flies between the U.S. and Shannon, bringing tourists close to the 400-acre Doonbeg Lodge and Golf Course which Trump bought last year. In his letter to Kenny, the U.S. billionaire said Aer Lingus is as essentially Irish as “the shamrock and Guinness,” the Irish Independent said.

Walsh also downplayed an intervention by Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., which has said IAG taking over Aer Lingus would have an “adverse effect” on ticket prices, service quality and connectivity.

Walsh, who grew up in Dublin, said that “it’s not unusual for Virgin to see if they can get something out of the process” from European antitrust regulators.

Virgin declined to comment on Walsh’s remarks.

Contacts Continue

Contacts between Ireland and IAG are continuing, after the government last month rejected Walsh’s first indicative bid. IAG needs to provide a guarantee on maintaining routes to London for longer than the five years to which Walsh has already committed, Irish Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has said.

Walsh said that while he’s in “no hurry” to conclude a deal for Aer Lingus, uncertainty around the potential sale “may well be a distraction for the management of the business and that is something that they will want to see addressed.”

In a speech in Dublin today, Donohoe repeated that the government won’t sell its stake unless its conditions are met. Still, he also said any gaps in the market will be filled by competition and pointed out that most European States have now sold their airlines.

The parent of British Airways has proposed offering 2.55 euros in cash and dividends. Aer Lingus shares rose 0.6 percent to 2.34 euros as of 3:54 p.m. in Dublin trading.

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