EU regulator extends Ryanair, Aer Lingus review to March 6

BRUSSELS Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:00pm GMT

Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport, September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport, September 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Albert Gea

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators have extended their review of the latest bid by Ryanair (RYA.I) to acquire Irish rival Aer Lingus (AERL.I) to March 6 after the budget carrier offered additional concessions to allay competition concerns.

The one-week extension from February 27 was published on the European Commission's website on Wednesday without any details, in line with the EU executive's policy.

Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost airline, said on Tuesday it was confident of gaining EU approval for the 694-million-euro ($922 million) deal.

The carrier's latest offer to the Commission included ceding 43 routes to Flybe (FLYB.L) and three Aer Lingus' Heathrow routes to British Airways (ICAG.L), a person familiar with the matter has told Reuters.

Flybe confirmed that it was in talks about a possible transfer of aircraft and operating routes and said that the discussions were non-exclusive and non-binding.

Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, announced 300 job cuts, or about 10 percent of its workforce, earlier on Wednesday.

This may weaken its case as a buyer of Aer Lingus routes, said a source involved in the Ryanair and Aer Lingus deal.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Karen Rebelo, editing by Rex Merrifield)

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