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Ryanair loses court challenge against Finnair state aid

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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Ryanair on Wednesday lost its challenge against EU approval for millions of euros in state aid granted to rival Finnair after Europe's second-top court took the side of EU competition regulators.

Europe's biggest budget airline has a mixed record in its more than 30 lawsuits against state funding given to its rivals across the 27-country bloc to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has won court backing against Dutch aid for KLM and Portuguese support for TAP, but lost its appeals against aid for Lufthansa's Austrian unit, SAS and Condor.

The Luxembourg-based General Court threw out its Finnair lawsuit. Ryanair had argued that EU regulators should have opened an investigation before approving the state support.

"The action seeking annulment of the decision by the Commission to approve aid granted by Finland to the airline Finnair is dismissed in its entirety," judges said.

"The Commission was entitled to approve the recapitalisation of Finnair, carried out by its public and private owners on a pro rata basis in proportion to the previously existing ownership structure, without initiating the formal investigation procedure," they said.

Ryanair, which last year lost its fight against a Finnish state loan guarantee for Finnair, can appeal on matters of law to the Court of Justice of the European Union, Europe's highest.

The case is T-657/20 Ryanair/Commission (Finnair II; Covid-19).

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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