UPDATE 1-Ryanair to lodge complaints on Aer Lingus defence

Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:54pm EDT

* Says Aer Lingus misled investors when rejecting Ryanair

* To complain to stock exchanges, takeover panel, regulator

By John Bowker and Andras Gergely

LONDON/DUBLIN, March 11 (Reuters) - Ireland's Ryanair will make a series of complaints against arch rival Aer Lingus after its recent takeover target said it would be loss-making in 2009 -- the opposite of frequent claims made by the airline when rejecting Ryanair's bid earlier this year.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair (RYA.I) said it would complain to both the London and Irish stock exchanges, The Takeover Panel and the financial services regulator about what it claims was misleading information in the Aer Lingus defence document of Dec. 22 last year.

Aer Lingus said then it would make a small pretax profit after costs in 2008 and 2009. It said on Wednesday it had made it into the black by this measure in 2008, but it was unlikely to do so in 2009.

The forecast sent the shares down 27 percent to less than half the Ryanair offer of 1.40 euros a share or 750 million euros ($957.3 million).

"We intend to submit formal complaints ... about the patently false claims and misleading advice given by Aer Lingus to shareholders in its 22 December Defence Document," said Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary in a statement.

Ryanair had built a near 30 percent stake in Aer Lingus as part of its pursuit of the airline.

"We are going to make a complaint to highlight the wrong-doing, and encourage the various parties to take appropriate sanctions," added a Ryanair spokesman.

"It seems communication made in defence of Aer Lingus was on the rosy side ... it was over optimistic," commented an airline analyst, who did not want to be named.

Aer Lingus finance director Sean Coyle told Reuters earlier on Wednesday that the group was well capitalised and did not need to be bought out, while its short haul business remained strong.

A spokesman for the carrier later said it never commented on Ryanair statements.

Ryanair's pursuit of Aer Lingus foundered in January after the Irish government, a 25 percent shareholder, rejected the bid on competition and valuation grounds.

A government spokeswoman declined to comment on Wednesday.

(Reporting by John Bowker; Editing by David Cowell)

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