Not much came out of a meeting this week between a group of high-powered investors led by a former defense minister and the current owners of the Rygge airport south of Moss. The group had no concrete plans to present about new commercial airline customers for the airport, and the owners were disappointed.
“I can’t seen any other solution for continued operations at Rygge unless the state comes into the picture (with funding),” Olav Thon, the elderly real estate tycoon who owns a major stake in Rygge, told reporters after the meeting on Monday. Nor did his co-owner, industrial firm Orkla, see any basis for ongoing operations. Both Orkla and Thon plan to write off their losses at Rygge and pull out. Thon said he was willing to sell his shares in Rygge’s commercial operating company for just one krone, as long as the buyer also take over debt responsibility.
The investor group that raised hopes for Rygge’s future last week hit unexpected turbulence despite their individual solid track records in business and capital resources. They include the former CEO of Norway’s biggest bank, the former head of Norway’s railroad, high-flying financiers and stock brokers. Neither SAS nor Norwegian Air is interested in flying out of Rygge, which announced it would close when cut-rate carrier Ryanair decided to suspend operations from late October. Ryanair blamed the government’s new airline seat tax, but will continue to operate from the Torp airport in Sandefjord and launch four flights from Gardermoen.
Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said there was little chance the state would step in with any support. The state is planning to transfer more military operations to Rygge, but that won’t provide jobs for the hundreds who’ve been working on the commercial side and now need to find new employment.