Aer Lingus soars on Mannion resignation, easyJet chairman sets retirement date - SHARE WRAP

Aer Lingus shareholders have welcomed the resignation yesterday of CEO, Dermot Mannion, greeting the news with a 7.5% surge in the loss-making carrier's share price. Chairman, Colm Barrington, will act as CEO until a permanent replacement is found.

Mannion fought vigorously against two takeover bids by Ryanair, which remains the airline's largest shareholder with 29.8%. (The most recent EUR1.40 per share bid was double the current Aer Lingus share price). Mannion's successor inherits a carrier deeply troubled by the economic downturn in Europe. Stopping the cash drain and addressing the Ryanair issue will be top of the agenda.

Michael O'Leary will be relishing the next phase of the siege of Dublin. Ryanair, whose shares eased 0.4% yesterday, stated Mannion's departure "is a sign of a dysfunctional board and a failed ownership structure."

Meanwhile, easyJet has confirmed Chairman Colin Chandler will leave the carrier on 01-Jul-09. Board member, David Michels, is taking over the position temporarily. BT Chairman, Sir Michael Rake, has been appointed Deputy Chairman, and is expected to take over from Chandler in the top spot. It follows a damaging board-room battle over the airline's growth strategy, as founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, criticised the LCC's rapid expansion amid the recession.

easyJet's March traffic fell 6.3%, with an average load factor of 84.7% down 2.8 ppts year-on-year. Demand was impacted by the early Easter, which fell in March 2008. easyJet is expecting a stronger April. Its shares rose 2.7% yesterday.

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European selected airlines daily share price movements (% change): 06-Apr-09