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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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Ryanair in new expansion drive

Category : Business

Ryanair is planning to increase its aircraft fleet by a third to 400 planes after ordering 175 planes from Boeing.

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Ryanair makes 9% flight cut threat

Category : Business, World News

Airline Ryanair says it plans to cut the number of flights from Stansted Airport by nine per cent.

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Ryanair takes offer for Aer Lingus to court

Category : Business

Airline takes action after rejection by European officials of its third takeover bid

Ryanair is taking to court its battle to acquire rival Aer Lingus following the rejection of its third takeover bid by European officials. The airline accused the European commission of acting unfairly and failing to apply its own competition rules and precedents to the latest takeover plan.

“We regret that this prohibition is manifestly motivated by narrow political interests rather than competition concerns and we believe that we have strong grounds for appealing and overturning this politically inspired prohibition,” said a Ryanair spokesman. “Accordingly, Ryanair has instructed its legal advisers to prepare a comprehensive appeal against this manifestly unjust prohibition.”

The airline said the bid rejected on Wednesday by the EU, was supported by an unprecedented remedies package. The “radical” bid included two buyers – British Airways and Flybe – agreeing to take over about half of Aer Lingus’s short-haul business.

The takeover plan had been boosted this month when Flybe agreed to fly 43 of Aer Lingus’s short-haul routes, easing competition concerns. There had also been a commitment from International Airlines Group – owner of BA and Iberia – to run overlapping Aer Lingus/Ryanair routes between Dublin and London Gatwick to ensure competition.

Ryanair said the decision to block its latest bid was a political one to protect the interests of the Irish government, which holds a 25% stake in Aer Lingus. The airline submitted its final package of takeover plans and commitments this month following a series of meetings with EU chiefs. It said the package addressed the shortcomings in its two failed bids in 2007 and 2012.

Ryanair: EU to reject Aer Lingus bid

Category : World News

Ryanair says that the European Commission intends to block its proposed offer for rival Aer Lingus and says it will appeal against any such decision.

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Stansted airport to be sold for £1.5bn to Manchester Airports Group

Category : Business

Sale of UK’s third largest air hub by the company formerly known as BAA was demanded by Competition Commission

Stansted airport, one of the prime contenders to supplant Heathrow as part of an expansion of airport capacity in the southeast of England, is to be sold by the company formerly known as BAA in a £1.5bn deal.

The sale of the UK’s third largest airport to Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is expected to be completed by the end of February and marks the continued rise of the group, whose three existing airports and property business contribute around £3.2bn to the UK.

The breakup of BAA also continues apace as a result of the deal, which reduces the number of airports in the hands of the company from seven to four.

The Competition Commission ruled in July 2011 that it should sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport as part of a breakup which was resisted in a succession of ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges.

But the company, which owns Heathrow, Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow, and announced in October that it was to change its name from BAA to Heathrow Airport Holdings, has announced that Stansted was being bought by MAG.

Stansted, in Essex, which is London’s third busiest airport and a major hub for budget airlines such as Ryanair, has been identified by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, as the only viable alternative to proposals to construct a £50bn airport in the Thames estuary.

The mayor, who is opposed to expansion at Heathrow in west London and said in October that he favoured an airport to the east of London, later suggested Stansted should be turned into a “superhub” airport with three extra runways and commissioned a feasibility study.

The airport, which handles around 17.5 million passengers and more than 131,000 flights a year, posted pre-tax profits of £86.6m in 2011.They were estimated to be £94.2m in 2012.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow chief executive and a BAA board member, said: “Stansted airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.

“It has been named by passengers as the world’s best airport for low-cost airlines for two consecutive years at the Skytrax World Airport Awards, and we are proud of its achievements.”

He added: “We wish the new owners every success and are confident the airport will continue to flourish. We will continue to focus on improving Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.”

As well as operating Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, MAG owns a commercial property company, MAG Developments, which has a £350m portfolio across the three airports and is leading the £650m Enterprise Zone development, Airport City, at Manchester.

It also runs businesses in car parking, airport security, firefighting, engineering, advertising and motor transport.

BAA’s airport ownership was brought into question when the Office of Fair Trading referred the company’s holding to the Competition Commission which, after a long inquiry, ruled that BAA’s airport ownership was uncompetitive.

Criticising the company’s performance, the commission said BAA had to sell Gatwick and Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.

Gatwick had already been sold by the time of the ruling and since then BAA has sold Edinburgh.

It held out for some time before finally accepting the ruling on Stansted – mounting a succession of ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges.

MAG had been one of the bidders for Gatwick when BAA put it up for sale while the competition inquiry was going on but it lost out to American private equity group Global Infrastructure Partners which now also runs Edinburgh.

Dublin opposes Aer Lingus deal

Category : Business, World News

The Irish government voices its opposition to Ryanair’s bid to buy rival Aer Lingus, saying the deal risked damaging competition.

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Ryanair deserves a new name | Carole Cadwalladr

Category : Business

As the sneering Michael O’Leary scores yet again off his passengers, welcome to Twatair

Oh Ryanair, how you spoil one. Last week’s news, it’s true, can’t hope to compete with the all-time greatest Ryanair stories. (I have a special fondness for the one from last year in which cabin crew treated a man having a heart attack with a sandwich. And then made him pay for it.)

Last week’s is just your bog-standard anti-consumer machinations involving a ruling from the Office of Fair Trading and some medium-to-light deviousness on the side. The OFT ruled that levying a fee on anyone booking by debit card was unfair, to which Ryanair responded by removing it. And levying a fee on everyone. Oh yes, and instituting an extra 2% if you book by credit card, instead of, you know, sending them a couple of ducats and a florin by carrier pigeon.

The new £6 fee is no longer a booking fee, it’s an “admin fee”, which apparently goes toward paying for the upkeep of the website. That being the kind of business-optional extra for a company that charges you £1 a minute to “priority” call them. This is a website that, it should be noted, won an award last week from the UK Simplicity Index for being the worst in Britain with many customers complaining about a deliberate lack of transparency.

But really, what’s the point? With most companies, to write stories about how they disguise their fees and charge their customers punitive amounts of money when they fail to read the small print is the kind of thing that makes them get all twitchy and start firing off legal letters.

Whereas Ryanair has based its entire corporate strategy on it. Being a bit bastardly is at the heart of everything that the airline is proud to stand for. When a British woman gained 500,000 votes of support on Facebook last month after she had to pay £236 because she couldn’t print out her family’s boarding cards, Michael O’Leary, the airline’s CEO, stepped in to add his voice in sympathy by saying: “It was your fuck-up and if you screw up you compensate us.”

He pointed out that 0.02% of his passengers also failed to print their boarding cards before getting to the airport ( that’s 15,200 passengers at £60 a pop, or nearly £1m. For printing off a few bits of paper). And what do you say to those customers, Michael? “We say quite politely to those passengers, bugger off.”

Which gets to the nub of it. Because Michael O’Leary is right. We should all just bugger off and use easyJet instead, though I’ve always had a special fondness for Ryanair. They were so cheap! And the staff so comically vile. Plus, I always thought there was an evil genius to their ingenuity. I once flew to Morocco with them and the baggage allowance was 20 kilos on the way out, and 15 on the way back. Really, you just have to hand it to them. They reminded me of a Romanian moneychanger in the early 90s who exchanged my $100 bill for a wadful of lavatory paper. It was a classic bait and switch, so masterfully done, so brilliantly executed, predicated on my stupidity and greed, that I just thought: respect.

Anyway, being vile seemed a small price to pay for being so cheap. Then, last year, I took a flight in America with Southwest Airlines. And suffered acute consumer bewilderment. Because Southwest Airlines are the original budget airline, it’s the ur-Ryanair, the model Michael O’Leary studied and copied from. And here’s the shocker: they’re nice!

They’re so nice they reopened boarding to let me catch my plane. They’re so nice that management books have been written about them. If you look on Amazon, there’s not one but three books devoted to their business philosophy (sample strategy: “Hire people with a sense of humour”). Southwest Airlines are the largest, most profitable airline in the US with the lowest employee turnover. Fortune magazine has twice ranked them as one of the 10 best companies to work for in America.

Ryanair, on the other hand, encourages cabin crew to pay up to £2,000 for a training course, which has no guaranteed job at the end of it. If they do get a job, they can be sacked at any point during their probationary year. And, the icing on the cake is this, they’re charged £25 a month to “hire” their uniforms.

It’s amazing when you think about it. The Irish have had great free PR for donkey’s years. All that craic and blarney and pints of Guinness. If one was going to build a customer-facing business that depended on repeat custom and word of mouth, it’s really not a bad base to start with. Or you could do it the Michael O’Leary way. Here he is on his passengers: “People say the customer is always right, but you know what – they’re not. Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so.”

The steward on my Southwest Airlines flight was the friendliest, most charming air steward I’ve ever met. But of course, that’s what happens in companies. The culture is created at the top and reflects all the way down. Michael O’Leary is a twat. Can I say that, Mrs Lawyer? He is. There’s no getting round it. And Ryanair, the airline he has built in his image, is a twattish airline that treats both its staff and its customers with contempt.

I fly with Ryanair for the same reason I tried to change my money on the street with an illegal black marketeer. Because I’m stupid and greedy. But I may have to stop now. Not just because the Spanish pilot union this summer reported that Ryanair was “operating at the limits of legality” in the way it fuelled its planes and is “courting disaster”. Or because the cabin crew have started to remind me of incarcerated veal calves. It’s because the airline’s a twat.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary tells MPs idea of new hub airport is ‘insane’

Category : Business

New runways should instead be built at Stansted and Gatwick as well as Heathrow, transport select committee hears

The idea of a new hub airport should be dropped and three runways built immediately at airports in south-east England, according to the chief executive of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary.

O’Leary told MPs on the transport select committee that the argument for expanding only one central hub was driven by high-fare airlines and operators seeking to shunt passengers through Heathrow, and that new runways should be built at Stansted and Gatwick as well as Heathrow.

“London has the benefit of multiple airports, it has the infrastructure in place – get on and build three more runways,” he said.

Asked what he thought of proposals for a new hub, which the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has backed in the Thames estuary, O’Leary replied: “In parliamentary language it would be unprintable. Insane, stupid, harebrained.” He said the need for new surrounding infrastructure alone made it all but unworkable.

Private investors would pay for new runways at existing airports “in a flash”, he said, so long as they were free from the current regulatory regime.

The Ryanair boss said decades of mishandled policy meant the UK had lost out on much of the growth in the number of passengers using his airline, which had switched operations to other countries due to high airport charges and taxes.

He hit out at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), saying: “Shut it down tomorrow as far as economic regulation goes. It has been a disaster.” He said its economists had “no grounding in reality and don’t know much about air transport at all”.

O’Leary said the Howard Davies commission, set up to consider the need for new airport capacity in the south-east, was “just another example of the UK government kicking the aviation strategy can further down the road” with “years of fudge and dither”.

He reiterated his opposition to air passenger duty, which he claimed was counterproductive. “Instead of getting the visitors into the country and taxing them when they’re here, you guys are standing by the runway like latter-day highway robbers.”

Giving evidence alongside O’Leary, Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives, said he would support O’Leary’s aspiration for runways at different airports. But he said most UK airports were functioning as efficiently as possible on limited capacity, and a bigger hub was crucial. “We need at least one airport with three or more runways,” Keller said.

This column will change your life: consumer options

Category : Business

Have the headache of buying a mattress or choosing a flight? Happiness is also a comparison-based notion full of pitfalls

If, like me, you’ve recently purchased a mattress, you’ll know it’s an astoundingly tedious and soul-depleting process – rendered only slightly less awful by the fact that when you do finally collapse, exhausted by indecision, in the middle of the beds department, there are plenty of places to lie down. Long ago, maybe mattress-shopping was a simple choice between “firm” and “soft”, but these days it’s a thicket of dilemmas. Memory foam, wool, gel, fibre? Solid-slatted or sprung-slatted? Lumbar zoning? Perhaps a pillow-top? This complexity at first seems hard to explain. Sure, it’s nice to have options, but why deliberately aggravate customers, delaying the moment of purchase with so many extra decisions? Aren’t mattress-makers aware of one of the best-known truths of consumer psychology: that too much choice makes people miserable?

Oh, don’t worry: they’re aware. But they’ve got a different plan: by inventing so many different criteria, they make it effectively impossible to comparison-shop. Even if those criteria were identical from one manufacturer to the next – which they’re not – you’d go crazy keeping track of every one. And so the industry, as a whole, gets to charge inflated prices; consumers have no way to tell what’s good value. Airlines do this increasingly, too, with “unbundled” fares, charging separately for luggage, on-board food, etc. People get cross when Ryanair adds sneaky fees – as when, earlier this year, they charged one woman €300 for printing boarding passes – and consumer watchdogs demand “transparency”. But sneakiness is only part of the problem. Even when charges are out in the open, their proliferation make flights comparison-proof. The only (partial) remedy is to pick your own criteria, before you begin, and stick to them. Buying a TV? If you care only about picture and sound quality, ignore every other feature you’re offered. And with mattresses, as Slate magazine once concluded in a review of the industry , “just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they’re pretty much all the same”.

It’s not all bad news, though: the same idea of “comparison-proofing” has more cheering implications when it comes to personal wellbeing. Happiness is a deeply comparison-based notion, and our need to feel that we’re doing well compared to others leads us into traps: this explains the famous finding that many people would choose a smaller rise in income, leaving them wealthier than those around them, over a larger one, with others receiving even more.

Might it not make sense, then, to comparison-proof your own life? This is one good argument for pursuing a long-held eccentric career ambition over something more conventional: if nobody else you know is a gherkin wholesaler, or a goat farmer, you’re much less likely to feel gnawed by the sense of not measuring up. It might pay to pick friends with different lifestyles, too. When I hear about successes of friends who are writers, I admit, my happiness is tinged with envy. (“Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little” – Gore Vidal.) But my friend the actor, or my friend the computer programmer? For them, I’m just happy: there’s no easy way to compare our achievements, so it never occurs to me to do so. Though there is one way, of course, in which anyone can compare themselves to others. Which is why friends who want to stay friends should never discuss money.

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Ryanair dismisses Stansted bid

Category : Business

Ryanair says it will not form part of any consortium to buy Stansted after saying the airport’s owner BAA had excluded the budget airline from the sale process.

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