Norwegian Air CEO says bid approaches go beyond IAG, Lufthansa

Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos. (Bloomberg pic)

BRUSSELS: 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%.

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% 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% 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 dialled 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.

‘Too Early’
“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% higher at 280.30 kroner as of 12:26 p.m. in Oslo, valuing the airline at 12.4 billion kroner ($1.5 billion).