EU's Ryanair, Aer Lingus review not at decision stage: Almunia

BRUSSELS Thu Dec 6, 2012 12:33pm GMT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators studying Ryanair's (RYA.I) third attempt to acquire Irish rival Aer Lingus (AERL.I) are not at the "critical stage" of deciding whether to clear or block the deal, the EU's antitrust chief said.

The European Commission last month told Ryanair of its objections to the proposed tie-up, which could reduce competition on a large number of routes.

Some analysts said the move was a setback for the budget carrier, putting pressure on it to offer more concessions.

Asked about the status of the Commission's review of the case, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters: "They are not yet at the critical stage."

He was speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of an American Chamber of Commerce conference.

Ryanair has already submitted a package which includes a commitment from at least two major EU airlines to set up bases in Dublin, as well as the scrapping some of its and Aer Lingus' routes from Ireland.

The Commission is now reviewing the proposal.

The EU competition authority blocked Ryanair's first takeover attempt in 2007. The airline, which owns 30 percent of Aer Lingus, dropped a second offer in 2009.

The Commission has set a February 6 deadline for its decision.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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