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Any transfer of, or payment in respect of, an ADS involving the government of any country that is currently the subject of United Nations sanctions, any person or body controlled by any of the foregoing, or any person acting on behalf of the foregoing, may be subject to restrictions pursuant to such sanctions as implemented into Irish law. The Company does not anticipate that Irish exchange controls or orders under the 1992 Act or United Nations sanctions implemented into Irish law will have a material effect on its business.
LIMITATIONS ON SHARE OWNERSHIP BY NON-EU NATIONALS
The Board of Directors of Ryanair Holdings is given certain powers under the Articles to take action to ensure that the number of Ordinary Shares held in Ryanair Holdings by non-EU nationals does not reach a level which could jeopardize the Company‘s entitlement to continue to hold or enjoy the benefit of any license, permit, consent or privilege which it holds or enjoys and which enables it to carry on business as an air carrier (a ―License‖). In particular, EU Regulation 2407/92 requires that, in order to obtain and retain an operating license, an EU air carrier must be majority-owned and effectively controlled by EU nationals. The regulation does not specify what level of share ownership will confer effective control on a holder or holders of shares. As described below, the directors will, from time to time, set a ―Permitted Maximum‖ on the number of Ordinary Shares that may be owned by non-EU nationals at such level as they believe will comply with EU law. The Permitted Maximum is currently set at 49.9%.
Ryanair Holdings maintains a separate register (the ―Separate Register‖) of Ordinary Shares in which non-EU nationals, whether individuals, bodies corporate or other entities, have an interest (such shares are referred to as ―Affected Shares‖ in the Articles). Interest in this context is widely defined and includes any interest held through ADRs in the shares underlying the relevant ADRs. The directors can require relevant parties to provide them with information to enable a determination to be made by the directors as to whether Ordinary Shares are, or are to be treated as, Affected Shares. If such information is not available or forthcoming or is unsatisfactory then the directors can, at their discretion, determine that Ordinary Shares are to be treated as Affected Shares. Registered holders of Ordinary Shares are also obliged to notify the Company if they are aware that any Ordinary Share which they hold ought to be treated as an Affected Share for this purpose. With regard to ADRs, the directors can treat all of the relevant underlying shares as Affected Shares unless satisfactory evidence as to why they should not be so treated is forthcoming.
In the event that, inter alia, (i) the refusal, withholding, suspension or revocation of any License or the imposition of any condition which materially inhibits the exercise of any License (an ―Intervening Act‖) has taken place, (ii) the Company receives a notice or direction from any governmental body or any other body which regulates the provision of air transport services to the effect that an Intervening Act is imminent, threatened or intended or (iii) an Intervening Act may occur as a consequence of the level of non-EU ownership of Ordinary Shares or an Intervening Act is imminent, threatened or intended because of the manner of share ownership or control of Ryanair Holdings generally, the directors can take action pursuant to the Articles to deal with the situation. They can, inter alia, (i) remove any directors or change the chairman of the Board of Directors, (ii) identify those Ordinary Shares, ADRs or Affected Shares which give rise to the need to take action and treat such Ordinary Shares, ADRs, or Affected Shares as Restricted Shares (see below) or (iii) set a ―Permitted Maximum‖ on the number of Affected Shares which may subsist at any time (which may not, save in the circumstances referred to below, be lower than 40% of the total number of issued shares) and treat any Affected Shares (or ADRs representing such Affected Shares) in excess of this Permitted Maximum as Restricted Shares (see below).
In addition to the above, if as a consequence of a change of law or a direction, notice or requirement of any state, authority or person it is necessary to reduce the total number of Affected Shares below 40% or reduce the number of Affected Shares held by any particular stockholder or stockholders in order to overcome, prevent or avoid an Intervening Act, the directors may resolve to (i) set the Permitted Maximum at such level below 40% as they consider necessary in order to overcome, prevent or avoid such Intervening Act, or (ii) treat such number of Affected Shares (or ADRs representing Affected Shares) held by any particular stockholder or stockholders as they consider necessary (which could include all of such Affected Shares or ADRs) as Restricted Shares (see below). The directors may serve a Restricted Share Notice in respect of any Affected Share, or any ADR representing any ADS, which is to be treated as a Restricted Share. Such notices can have the effect of depriving the recipients of the rights to attend, vote at and speak at general meetings, which they would otherwise have as a consequence of holding such Ordinary Shares or ADRs. Such notices can also require the recipients to dispose of the Ordinary Shares or ADRs concerned to an EU national (so that the relevant shares (or shares underlying the relevant ADRs) will then cease to be Affected Shares) within 21 days or such longer period as the directors may determine. The directors are also given the power to transfer such Restricted Shares, themselves, in cases of non-compliance with the Restricted Share Notice.
To enable the directors to identify Affected Shares, transferees of Ordinary Shares are generally required to provide a declaration as to the nationality of persons having interests in those shares. Stockholders are also obliged to notify Ryanair Holdings if they are aware that any shares, which they hold, ought to be treated as Affected Shares for this purpose. Purchasers or transferees of ADRs need not complete a nationality declaration because the directors expect to treat all of the Ordinary Shares held by the Depositary as Affected Shares. ADS holders must open ADR accounts directly with the Depositary if they wish to provide to Ryanair Holdings nationality declarations or such other evidence as the directors may require in order to establish to the directors‘ satisfaction that the Ordinary Shares underlying such holder‘s ADRs are not Affected Shares.
In deciding which Affected Shares are to be selected as Restricted Shares, the directors can take into account which Affected Shares have given rise to the necessity to take action. Subject to that they will, insofar as practicable, firstly view as Restricted Shares those Affected Shares in respect of which no declaration as to whether or not such shares are Affected Shares has been made by the holder thereof and where information which has been requested by the directors in accordance with the Articles has not been provided within specified time periods and, secondly, have regard to the chronological order in which details of Affected Shares have been entered in the Separate Register and, accordingly, treat the most recently registered Affected Shares as Restricted Shares to the extent necessary. Transfers of Affected Shares to Affiliates (as that expression is defined in the Articles) will not affect the chronological order of entry in the Separate Register for this purpose.
The directors do however have the discretion to apply another basis of selection if, in their sole opinion, that would be more equitable. Where the directors have resolved to treat Affected Shares held by any particular stockholder or stockholders as Restricted Shares (i) because such Affected Shares have given rise to the need to take such action or (ii) because of a change of law or a requirement or direction of a regulatory authority necessitating such action (see above), such powers may be exercised irrespective of the date upon which such Affected Shares were entered in the Separate Register.
After having initially resolved to set the maximum level at 49.0%, the directors increased the maximum level to 49.9% on May 26, 1999, after the number of Affected Shares exceeded the initial limit. This maximum level could be reduced if it becomes necessary for the directors to exercise these powers in the circumstances described above. The decision to make any such reduction or to change the Permitted Maximum from time to time will be published in at least one national newspaper in Ireland and in any country in which the Ordinary Shares or ADRs are listed. The relevant notice will specify the provisions of the Articles that apply to Restricted Shares and the name of the person or persons who will answer queries relating to Restricted Shares on behalf of Ryanair Holdings. The directors shall publish information as to the number of shares held by EU nationals annually.
In an effort to increase the percentage of its share capital held by EU nationals, on June 26, 2001, Ryanair Holdings instructed the Depositary to suspend the issuance of new ADSs in exchange for the deposit of Ordinary Shares until further notice to its shareholders. Holders of Ordinary Shares cannot convert their Ordinary Shares into ADRs during such suspension, and there can be no assurance that the suspension will ever be lifted.
As a further measure to increase the percentage of Ordinary Shares held by EU nationals, on February 7, 2002, the Company issued a notice to shareholders to the effect that any purchase of Ordinary Shares by a non-EU national after such date will immediately result in the issue of a Restricted Share Notice to such non-EU national Purchaser. The Restricted Share Notice compels the non-EU national purchaser to sell the Affected Shares to an EU national within 21 days of the date of issuance. In the event that any such non-EU national shareholder does not sell its Ordinary Shares to an EU national within the specified time period, the Company can then take legal action to compel such a sale. As a result, non-EU nationals are effectively barred from purchasing Ordinary Shares for as long as these restrictions remain in place. There can be no assurance that these restrictions will ever be lifted.
As an additional measure, to ensure the percentage of shares held by EU nationals remains at least 50.1%, at the extraordinary general meeting held on April 19, 2012, the Company obtained a new repurchase authority which will enable the repurchase of ADRs for up to 5% of the issued share capital of the Company traded on the NASDAQ. This authority was renewed at the Annual General Meeting held on September 20, 2013.
Concerns about the foreign ownership restrictions described above could result in the exclusion of Ryanair from certain stock tracking indices. Any such exclusion may adversely affect the market price of the Ordinary Shares and ADRs. See also ―Item 3. Risk Factors––Risks Related to Ownership of the Company‘s Shares or ADRs—EU Rules Impose Restrictions on the Ownership of Ryanair Holdings‘ Ordinary Shares by Non-EU Nationals and the Company has Instituted a Ban on the Purchase of Ordinary Shares by Non-EU Nationals‖ above.
As of June 30, 2014, EU nationals owned at least 52.8% of Ryanair Holdings‘ Ordinary Shares (assuming conversion of all outstanding ADRs into Ordinary Shares). Ryanair continuously monitors the ownership status of its Ordinary Shares, which changes on a daily basis.
Irish Tax Considerations The following is a discussion of certain Irish tax consequences of the purchase, ownership and disposition of Ordinary Shares or ADSs. This discussion is based upon tax laws and practice of Ireland at the date of this document, which are subject to change, possibly with retroactive effect. Particular rules may apply to certain classes of taxpayers (such as dealers in securities) and this discussion does not purport to deal with the tax consequences of purchase, ownership or disposition of the relevant securities for all categories of investors.
The discussion is intended only as a general guide based on current Irish law and practice and is not intended to be, nor should it be considered to be, legal or tax advice to any particular investor or stockholder.
Accordingly, current stockholders or potential investors should satisfy themselves as to the overall tax consequences by consulting their own tax advisers.
Dividends. If Ryanair Holdings pays dividends or makes other relevant distributions, the following is
Withholding Tax. Unless exempted, a withholding at the standard rate of income tax (currently 20%) will apply to dividends or other relevant distributions paid by an Irish resident company. The withholding tax requirement will not apply to distributions paid to certain categories of Irish resident stockholders or to distributions paid to certain categories of non-resident stockholders.
The following Irish resident stockholders are exempt from withholding if they make to the Company,
in advance of payment of any relevant distribution, an appropriate declaration of entitlement to exemption:
Pension schemes approved by the Irish Revenue Commissioners (―Irish Revenue‖);
Qualifying fund managers or qualifying savings managers;
Personal Retirement Savings Account (―PRSA‖) administrators who receive the relevant distribution as income arising in respect of PRSA assets;
Certain qualifying trusts established for the benefit of an incapacitated individual and/or persons in receipt of income from such a qualifying trust;
Certain Irish Revenue-approved amateur and athletic sport bodies.
The following non-resident stockholders are exempt from withholding if they make to the Company, in
advance of payment of any dividend, an appropriate declaration of entitlement to exemption:
Persons (other than a company) who (i) are neither resident nor ordinarily resident in Ireland and (ii) are resident for tax purposes in (a) a country which has signed a tax treaty with Ireland (a ―tax treaty country‖) or (b) an EU member state other than Ireland;