More investors flag interest in Norwegian

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The International Airlines Group (IAG) isn’t the only one interested in Norwegian Air. The company, which reported another loss on Thursday, revealed it also has been approached by others after IAG reported it had bought up 4.6 percent of Norwegian’s stock.

Norwegian Air reported a large operating loss in the first quarter, in the midst of a possible takeover bid. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

The airline noted in its report on first-quarter results that its board has now established a committee to review the inquiries and hired in financial and legal advisers to help the airline “go through the situation, handle relevant inquiries and protect shareholders’ interests.”

The biggest shareholders of all are Norwegian’s own chief executive, Bjørn Kjos, and his longtime friend and business partner Bjørn Kise, who also serves as Norwegian’s chairman. They control around 36 percent of Norwegian stock through their jointly owned company HBK Invest.

Kjos has told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he thinks it’s “nice that folks want to buy shares” but that he hadn’t thought about selling at all. Asked whether he wanted to have IAG represented on the board, he claimed he “hadn’t thought about that at all.”

He may be advised to do so, since IAG’s interest in Norwegian was shaping up to be a hostile takeover, although things went quiet after the spectacular share rally that followed news of IAG’s share purchases. Norwegian’s stock has tumbled so far this week but remains up by nearly 55 percent over the past month.

Norwegian’s results on Thursday were battered by severe turbulence, with the company losing NOK 2.2 billion on operations in the first quarter despite a 29 percent rise in revenues. That’s even worse than the NOK 1.7 billion loss logged in the same quarter last year.

The company blamed rising costs for fuel and a stronger US dollar. The airline also recorded extraordinary costs tied to its latest round of massive intercontinental expansion.

IAG, meanwhile, has gone silent after buying up more stock that’s brought its holdings to more than 5 percent. IAG has let Norwegian’s management and owners sweat since, with some analysts predicting it will launch a hostile takeover after it’s acquired around 10 percent of the company.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund