Norwegian's CEO seems to be a lot more relaxed about the possibility of selling the company than he was just a few weeks ago. He may still think the airline can thrive independently but if the price is right we should expect a sale.
Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos said his company has attracted takeover interest from multiple potential bidders and remains open to a deal on the right terms.
While British Airways owner IAG SA has had two offers rejected and Deutsche Lufthansa AG is looking at submitting a proposal, Kjos said that “several others” are also interested. The stock rose as much as 3.2 percent.
The parties are all “very well run airlines with good people,” according to the CEO, who said that Norwegian Air would be a better fit for a European carrier rather than an American or Asian one. A decision on whether to sell would be based on price and factors including the impact on employment, Kjos said, adding that he wouldn’t oppose a transaction if it was backed by the board.
Norwegian shares rose 12 percent Monday after Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said his company was in takeover discussions and might submit a bid depending on the strategic value a purchase would deliver. IAG disclosed its interest in April, saying it had bought a 4.6 percent stake and would like a full offer, though CEO Willie Walsh said May 18 that the Nordic carrier wasn’t a must-have target.
Kjos, a pioneer in extending low-cost flying to the trans-Atlantic market, has dialed down his opposition to selling Norwegian as he grapples with a stretched balance sheet and has said he’s no longer opposed to doing a deal on the right terms.
“If the owners want to sell I will not stop it,” he said. “I will listen carefully to the other shareholders. I just think it’s too early because we have not started harvesting yet.”
Kjos said that if the board was to recommend a sale he’d have to consider the impact on employees in particular. Norwegian’s current capital-raising efforts will be sufficient to meet its needs for the time being, the CEO added.
Shares of Norwegian Air were trading 2.3 percent higher at 280.30 kroner as of 12:26 p.m. in Oslo, valuing the airline at 12.4 billion kroner ($1.5 billion).
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Photo credit: A Norwegian aircraft. The carrier has attracted interest from other airline groups. Bloomberg