Reports coming from Ireland suggest Etihad Airways has formally acquired a 2.98% stake in Aer Lingus as part of its European expansion plans.
Aer Lingus confirmed on Tuesday that talks about a commercial partnership, which so far focused on code-share agreements, now include cost savings proposals through joint-procurement.
The statement ends months of speculations about Etihad’s interest in the Irish flag carrier.
James Hogan, CEO Etihad Airways, told an Irish newspaper in February that the Abu Dhabi-based group was engaged in talks with the Irish government to acquire a 25% stake in Aer Lingus.
A leading UAE newspaper reported in March a compromise deal between Dublin and Aer Lingus over pensions is almost complete, paving the way for a possible takeover of the Irish flag carrier by Etihad. “All I’ve said is that if they were to open their books then we’d have a look at it,” Etihad CEO James Hogan said while adding that his airline is still interested in purchasing Dublin’s stake, currently worth approximately €130 million ($170.6m).
Speculations about the acquisition increased when Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, admitted that his government has been in talks with the Middle Eastern airline. “We have had preliminary talks with Etihad on the possible sale of the Aer Lingus asset and those talks are stalled, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said in January.