DUBLIN Ryanair remains confident of securing European Union approval of its bid to take over Irish rival Aer Lingus, despite receiving a statement of objections from its competition watchdog, the budget airline said on Wednesday.
Ryanair said the European commission submitted its objections on Tuesday, but it has not made them public. The airline still has the opportunity to make more concessions before a final commission decision that is due early next year.
"Ryanair... remains confident that its offer for Aer Lingus will receive competition clearance following any fair assessment by the commission," the airline said in a statement.
The issuing of a statement of objections is "a standard procedural step," Ryanair said. It said it expected the commission to market test its package of competition remedies.
Ryanair, which already owns 30 percent of Aer Lingus, had an initial bid turned down by the European Commission on competition grounds in 2007 and dropped a second offer in 2009.
Analysts and investors view its latest 700 million euros bid as a long shot - reflected in Aer Lingus's shares trading well below the bid price.
Aer Lingus shares fell 1.1 percent to 1.04 euros on Wednesday at 1643 GMT, compared to a bid price of 1.30 euros.
The key to Ryanair's bid is a demonstration that a merger will not curb competition on the 44 routes on which the two airlines currently have no competitors.
Ryanair said it had secured agreement with third-party airlines to create "a number of new airline bases in Dublin" and new competitors on over 40 routes out of Ireland.
Additional solutions will guarantee increased price competition on routes out of Ireland, the airline said. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mike Nesbit)