Aer Lingus says annual net profits fall by half

Irish airline Aer Lingus said on Wednesday that net profits slumped by more than half last year after it took a major hit from costs linked to Ryanair's attempted takeover bid.

Profits after taxation and exceptional items nosedived 52.1 percent to 34.1 million euros ($46.04 million) last year, from 71.2 million euros in 2011, the group said in a results statement.

The group took a hit of 26.5 million euros that was mainly incurred in restructuring charges and legal fees related to the proposed takeover from rival Irish carrier Ryanair.

However, operating profits before exceptional items jumped almost 41 percent to 69.1 million euros in 2012 from 49.1 million euros the previous year, on the back of surging revenues and record passenger numbers.

Sales climbed 8.2 percent to 1.393 billion euros and passenger numbers grew 3.8 percent to 10.8 million passengers, which was the highest number ever flown by the airline.

Aer Lingus repeated its rejection of the Ryanair takeover bid that was lodged in July at 1.30 euros per share.

Wednesday's results were published weeks before the European Commission makes its decision on whether to allow Ryanair to pursue its planned takeover.

Ryanair owns 30 percent of Aer Lingus and last July offered to buy the Irish government's stake in the airline, but Dublin has stood firm and last month formally announced that it would not sell.

The Irish government owns 25.1 percent of Aer Lingus -- not enough to single-handedly block Ryanair's offer, while the European Commission fears that a takeover would diminish competition for Irish consumers.

The EC previously blocked a Ryanair bid for Aer Lingus in 2006, citing it would harm competition.