PARIS — British regulators ordered Ryanair on Wednesday to slash its 29 percent stake in Aer Lingus to 5 percent, arguing that the holding gave Ryanair too much influence over the strategy of the struggling Irish flag carrier and threatened competition on routes between Ireland and Britain.
In the ruling, which reaffirms its initial finding in May, Britain’s Competition Commission rejects a number of proposed remedies offered by Ryanair, including a vow last month by the airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, to sell, without conditions, its entire Aer Lingus stake to any European company that made a successful bid for more than half of the airline.
Aer Lingus welcomed the commission’s finding, which had been widely expected.
Ryanair immediately rejected it as “bizarre and manifestly wrong” and said it would challenge the order before Britain’s Competition Appeal Tribunal, a process that could drag on for several months if not years.
Regulators will not be able to compel any divestment by Ryanair until after the company has exhausted its appeals.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline by number of passengers, has made three unsolicited offers in the past seven years for Aer Lingus, which is 25 percent owned by the Irish government.