Shares in Norwegian Air jumped again after the chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG) said he still wants to buy the Oslo-based airline. Willie Walsh claimed he remained “open-minded” about Norwegian, sending stock in its parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) up both on Thursday and again on Friday.
NAS still isn’t trading anywhere near the highs it reached after IAG confirmed it had bought around 5 percent of stock in the carrier that has evolved from a regional to a domestic and then international and intercontinental airline since the early 2000s. It hit a high of NOK 320 when a takeover battle seemed to loom earlier this spring, but was back around NOK 248 on Friday.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), which covered the shareholders’ meeting in Madrid, reported that Walsh reiterated that IAG’s purchase was made with the intention of establishing a position from which it could launch merger discussions with Norwegian, including the possibility of a full acquisition. Norwegian’s founder and largest stockholder Bjørn Kjos wasn’t keen on the idea, though, and IAG backed off. Walsh told shareholders he’s still interested, though.
“We are still ‘open-minded’ about Norwegian,” Walsh said. He added, though, that IAG was under no obligation to strike an agreement “and we will definitely not become involved in a bidding war.” He said he was sorry conversations with Norwegian’s board had not succeeded. It remains unclear what IAG was willing to pay for NAS’ outstanding stock.