DUBLIN (Reuters) - British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) is "nowhere near" walking away from its bid to buy Irish airline Aer Lingus AERL.I, despite political opposition to the deal, chief executive Willie Walsh said in an interview published on Thursday.
Aer Lingus shares are trading 14 percent below the IAG offer price of 2.55 euros per share, as opposition from trade unions and Irish politicians raises concerns that the government may refuse to sell its 25 percent stake.
The agreement of the Irish government to sell its stake is a condition of the Aer Lingus board backing the 1.36 billion euro (£983 million) IAG offer.
“This is a deal that we want to do," Walsh told the Irish Times, one of a series of interviews with Irish media as part of an apparent charm offensive to win support in Ireland. IAG is “nowhere near” the point at which it would consider walking away, he said.
Walsh, who has not spoken publicly on the bid since it was made, is to speak on Irish national radio later on Thursday and will address a parliamentary committee in the afternoon.
In three interviews published in Irish newspapers on Thursday, Walsh did not offer additional concessions to the Irish government, but spoke of the potential to grow Aer Lingus's business and warned the airline's future as a stand-alone carrier would be "challenging."
Walsh was quoted by the Irish Independent as saying he was "a bit surprised" by the level of political opposition to the proposed deal.
Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by David Holmes