Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Possible Sale of Aer Lingus: Statements
I thank the Minister for coming before the House at short notice. Aer Lingus has always been an Irish brand. The company used the famous slogan, "Look up, it's Aer Lingus", in an advertisement many years ago. People also remember the Harp advertisement featuring Sally O'Brien. Irish brands such as Kerrygold, Guinness, Barry's Tea and Aer Lingus are recognised worldwide. I am afraid that a takeover of Aer Lingus would result in the brand disappearing.
As the Minister noted, a formal offer has not been made at this stage. It is important that everything is put on the table and all due consideration given to any offers that are made.
Aer Lingus's major asset is its slots in Heathrow Airport. The current offer is for €2.55 per share. When Aer Lingus was privatised by a Fianna Fáil-led Government, the company was sold at €2.40 per share. This means the value of an Aer Lingus share has increased by 15 cent in eight years. The net worth of the company is €1.3 billion, consisting of €400 million in cash reserves, a fleet worth €600 million and slots valued at €300 million. I understand the current offer from IAG equates to €1.3 billion, which is not enough. That issue needs to be considered.
Tourism and our regional airports are part of this larger scenario because tourism is our second largest industry. It is worth €3.1 billion to this economy after agriculture. A total of 7 million passengers came to Ireland either by ferry or air last year because we are an island nation. As the Minister pointed out, connectivity is the major issue. We need connectivity with the rest of Europe and the world. This is why it is important that we maintain the airports and ensure that airlines fly in with the best possible value to give to tourists and businesspeople. If something happens to the slots from Heathrow, which is one of the major hubs in western Europe, these people will not come here on business or for tourism and it will be a loss. How many jobs are created through tourism every year? It is very important that we look at all the matters on the table. It is very interesting to look back at the 2006 debate. Certain people are now saying the opposite of what their party said in 2006. It is important that everything is put on the table before we make a decision.