Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 12:18 UK

Ryanair tops up Aer Lingus stake

Ryanair and Aer Lingus planes on the runway
Ryanair would retain the Aer Lingus brand should a deal proceed

Low-cost airline Ryanair has increased its stake in Aer Lingus to just under 30%, after it was blocked from buying its rival Irish carrier.

Ryanair has bought an extra 3.5 million shares, taking its stake up to 29.8% from 29%.

Were Ryanair's stake to exceed 29.9%, it would be required to make a bid for the remaining shares in the company.

Ryanair's plan to merge with Aer Lingus was blocked by the European Commission, a ruling it is currently challenging.

Ryanair argues that the Commission's 2007 decision to veto a deal was "unlawful" and "politically motivated" and has launched an appeal at the Court of First Instance.

The Commission said that the deal was against the public interest as the combined firm would control of 80% of all European flights out of Dublin airport.

But Ryanair maintains a combined business would have less than 5% of the entire EU market and would reduce fares and eliminate fuel surcharges, saving passengers 100m a year.

Aer Lingus failed to force Ryanair to sell its stake last year.

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