Ryanair demands UK OFT explains merger oversight policy

Ryanair has called on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to explain its decision not to ask the European Commission to refer the British Airways/BMI merger back to the OFT for assessment, which – says Ryanair – runs “contrary to the OFT’s previous decision to attempt to review the European Commission’s ruling on Ryanair’s failed 2006 offer for Aer Lingus, which the OFT is attempting to investigate, despite the fact that it is out of time to do so”.

Ryanair also wants the OFT to explain why it now says that the EC is “best placed to assess the (BA/BMI) deal”, yet when the European Commission previously ruled that Ryanair would not be required to sell its 29% stake in Aer Lingus, the OFT decided in 2010, four years after the event, that it wished to investigate this decision, when it now admits that the EC “is best placed” to assess these issues.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary argued, “The OFT now admits that the European Commission is “best placed” to consider these airline mergers, and as a result, the OFT has decided not to review BA’s acquisition of British Midland. Given this admission, the OFT and its Irish boss John Fingleton should explain precisely why, six years after Ryanair’s failed takeover of an Irish airline, Aer Lingus, was prohibited by the European Commission, it now wishes to re-investigate the EC’s decision not to force Ryanair to dispose of its 29% stake in Aer Lingus. This is a glaring waste of regulatory time and resources by Mr Fingleton, the UK’s most expensive (Irish) civil servant.

“Perhaps Mr Fingleton might now explain why the EC is best placed to assess BA’s takeover of BMI, when he and his office do not accept that the EU was also best placed to assess Ryanair’s failed offer for Aer Lingus,” O’Leary added. “This decision by the OFT demonstrates yet again that there is one rule for British Airways and a different rule for Ryanair. The OFT under John Fingleton lacks any independence or integrity when it comes to Ryanair and it should now accept the EU Commission’s ruling on Ryanair’s failed offer for Aer Lingus and stop wasting time and British money reviewing the EU’s ruling when they now admit that the EU is best placed to review these deals.”

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