Britain to probe Ryanair stake in Aer Lingus

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Britain's competition regulator said Thursday it had opened a probe into low-cost airline Ryanair's ownership of a major stake in its Irish rival Aer Lingus.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it had opened a probe into the situation which dates from Ryanair becoming the top shareholder in Aer Lingus during its 2006 privatisation with a 30 percent holding.

Ryanair has since tried twice to take majority control of Aer Lingus but was thwarted by the European Commission and the Irish government, which still holds a 25 percent stake in the carrier.

The European Commission did allow Ryanair to keep its stake.

The OFT said it waited to open the probe until after Ryanair had exhausted legal appeals regarding its blocked public offers.

Ryanair said Thursday it was surprised the OFT was wasting its time and resources probing a failed merger of two non-British companies more than five years later.

© 2011 AFP

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