Ryanair's Aer Lingus bid 'will be blocked'

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The European Commission is set to block Ryanair's proposed takeover of Aer Lingus, according to the Irish budget airline, in what would be its third failed attempt to take control of its smaller rival.

Michael O'Leary's Ryanair said it was told during a meeting with the commission that the competition watchdog "intends to prohibit" the €694m (£598m) bid for the Irish flag carrier.

If so, it would be the second time Brussels has vetoed a takeover of Air Lingus by Ryanair, having blocked a move in 2007. In 2009 Ryanair dropped another attempt after running up against opposition from the Irish government, which owns 25 per cent of Aer Lingus.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish transport minister, has also said he does not support the latest bid, which was launched last year.

Robin Kiely, a Ryanair spokesman, said after the meeting that it "appears clear … that no matter what remedies Ryanair offered, we were not going to get a fair hearing and were going to be prohibited regardless of competition rules".

A final decision is not expected until the end of this month.