Suggestions that Ryanair misled the market 'could not be further from the truth': Ryanair chief tells court

Ryanair’s chief financial officer, Neil Sorahan, has told the High Court an email at the centre of a defamation action gave the impression the airline was trying to manipulate the stock market and this was something "we would not engage in at anytime".

By Ann O’Loughlin

Mr Sorahan aid the suggestion in the email from three Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) pilots that Ryanair had misled the market "could not be further from the truth".

Ryanair was well regarded in the market as having a reputation for financial prudence and a reputation for being very open with the market, he went on. And this was something that is reflected by the various announcements it makes to the market and has been something the airline worked very hard on ever since its initial public offering on the stock market in 1987.

Mr Sorahan was giving evidence on the second day of Ryanair’s action against captains Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy, who founded the RPG, claiming their email of September 12, 2013, to 2,289 pilots was untrue and defamatory of the airline.

Ryanair claims it was part of an ongoing RPG effort to trade unionise its pilots and had come following similar false attacks on its safety record.

The defendants deny defamation and say the words complained of do not mean what Ryanair says. They claim the words also have the benefit of qualified privilege.

The email was headed "Pilot Update: what the markets are saying about Ryanair" and stated the airline gave positive indications to investors the previous June which encouraged a share price increase followed up by a sell-off of shares by airline management.

By publishing that incorrect statement, the defendants were saying, by innuendo or insinuation, that the airline misled investors, knowingly facilitated insider dealing by management, was guilty of market manipulation and conspired with management to abuse the markets, Ryanair says.

In reply to questions from Ryanair counsel Martin Hayden, Mr Sorahan said the suggestion that the airline gave "positive indications" gave a false impression that it was manipulating numbers.

"That is not something the company would engage in at any time and that is hugely important to us", he said.

The market had to be able to trust a company because if it lost that then the management team cannot be trusted, the share price will come under pressure and the company would face sanction possibly of a criminal nature. It was really important that the market believed the information it gave and Ryanair prides itself on the quality of information it gives to the market, he said.

Paul O’Higgins SC, for the defendants, who said his clients accepted there was not the "remotest impropriety" by Ryanair management in this matter, cross examined Mr Sorahan about the airline’s own "punchy" public statements which were "to put it this way, a little bit propagandist".

Mr Sorahan replied "Your words not mine".

Mr O’Higgins said Ryanair released one statement in which it criticised as bizarre and politically motivated a European Commission decision to allow British Airways buy British Midland while refusing to permit Ryanair buy Aer Lingus in 2013.

Mr Sorahan said: "It is our opinion and we believe it to be true".

Did he accept it forcefully and colourfully expressed Ryanair’s view, counsel asked. Mr Sorahan said it was correct and the Commission decision was bizarre.

The hearing resumes next week before a judge and jury.


KEYWORDS: Court, Ryanair

 

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