Ryanair today asked the European Commission for permission to acquireAer Lingus, according to the European Commission website.
The move ended speculation about whether the proposed takeover would have to be reviewed in Brussels or by regulators in Dublin and comes after Ryanair launched an unwanted takeover bid for the former state-owned airline earlier this month.
The Commission must take action by December 6 on the filing, which was made today, to approve the proposed deal or extend consideration to a later date. Ryanair bid €1.48 billion for Aer Lingus. It already owns 19.2% of the airline.
The Government owns around a quarter of Aer Lingus shares and said it will not sell its stake under any circumstances, underscoring the point in a visit to Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes in Brussels.
The Government has been joined in its opposition by Aer Lingus's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) which upped its stake last week to 12.58%, the company's pilots with a 2.3% share and businessman Denis O'Brien who took out a defensive 2.1% shareholding.
According to the Government, any competition review of the proposed takeover must look at the impact on Irish aviation, as well as the European market as a whole, because it is concerned any merger would effectively create an Irish airline monopoly.
Ryanair believes the proposed deal should be judged by its effect across the European Union. Such arguments over market definition are often at the heart of competition controversies.
The proposed acquisition would account for most of the take-offs and landings at Dublin Airport but their combined business carrying more than 50 million passengers annually would be smaller than other European groupings such as Air France KLM.
The two airlines currently only compete on 17 out of 500 routes, including those to Britain. Those overlaps might require remedies, as other airline overlaps have in past deals.
Shares in Ryanair closed three cent lower at €8.82 in Dublin this evening, while Aer Lingus shares were up one to €2.84 in quiet trade.