Ryanair finalising takeover bid for Alitalia, says CEO Michael O’Leary

Ryanair 737 lined

Ryanair is in the process of preparing a takeover bid for Italy’s bankrupt airline Alitalia but has no interest in failing German carrier Air Berlin, according to its chief executive, Michael O’Leary.

Alitalia was put up for sale earlier this year after its request to be put in administration was finally approved by the Italian government, despite the country having pumped nearly £6bn into the airline over a decade. It came as employees rejected a rescue plan that would add a €2bn investment from shareholders, including Emirati airline Etihad, which owns 49%,  in return for a cut in wages.

O’Leary confirmed Ryanair was finalising the details of a binding offer for Alitalia in a move that would mark the airline’s second major acquisition in its 33-year history.

He said Ryanair would have to order new planes from Boeing or Airbus as it prefers having its own fleet as opposed to leasing aircraft, as Alitalia does.

Alitalia’s brand and long-haul operations would survive the takeover.

O’Leary hopes to preserve jobs for pilots and crew but mentioned that they would have to accept new employment terms under Ryanair.

No interest in Air Berlin

Air Berlin is also up for sale but O’Leary reiterated that he had no intention of making an offer, instead repeating his accusation that it was a conspiracy between Germany, Lufthansa and Air Berlin to strengthen Lufthansa’s position.

He said he expects European Union competition authorities to demand significant remedies in the event Lufthansa buys Air Berlin, with the carrier likely to have to give up slots on routes within Germany to maintain competition.

The German government has denied O’Leary’s claims, adding that its support for Air Berlin did not breach anti-trust rules.

If Ryanair is successful in its Alitalia takeover bid, it would be Ryanair’s first successful takeover since buying rival Buzz from KLM in 2003.

In 2013, the EU rejected Ryanair’s bid to buy Irish rival Aer Lingus.