IAG Says Uninterested in Norwegian Air After Bid-Plan Report

(Bloomberg) --

British Airways owner IAG SA said it has no plans to revive a bid for discount rival Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA following a Spanish report that an offer was likely to be made in the next 15 days.

The airline group, which also owns Madrid-based Iberia, intended to make an approach worth about $1.2 billion, according to Okdiario newspaper. That’s based on a share price of 70-85 kroner, almost double Norwegian’s current market value of $652 million. Okdiario said JPMorgan was advising on the deal.

“We have said many times in the past few months that we are no longer interested in Norwegian Air,” IAG spokeswoman Laura Goodes said by telephone on Friday. “Nothing has changed.” The stock rose as much 12% despite the denial.

IAG, which also owns Ireland’s Aer Lingus and discounters Vueling and Level, attempted to buy Norwegian last year, but abandoned the effort in January. A renewed pursuit would come amid signs it might encounter less resistance from Norwegian’s board, according to Okdiario, which didn’t name sources.

Norwegian, which declined to comment, rejected two offers from IAG as undervaluing its business before the London-based company walked away. The discount carrier had become vulnerable amid a cash crunch and mounting losses following one of fastest expansions in European airline history as it sought to extend its low-cost model into long-distance markets.

Rights Issue

The Scandinavian company was forced to close routes and sell off aircraft before billionaire John Fredriksen underwrote a 3 billion kroner rights issue in February to shore up its finances, albeit at a steep discount that saw the stock fall 5% on top of a 21% drop when IAG pulled its bid.

Bjorn Kjos, Norwegian’s founder and chief executive officer, who turns 73 on July 18, has asked the board to seek a successor, while his long-time ally, chairman Bjorn Kise, retired in May, having been seen as a potential obstacle to any future deal.

In an interview at the Paris Air Show on June 18, Kjos told Bloomberg TV that airlines will always be interested in acquiring other airlines, while declining to say whether his own company was in play.

Norwegian Air shares traded 4.2% higher at 42.60 kroner as of 9:12 a.m. in Oslo, paring the decline this year to 57%. IAG traded almost unchanged at 458.80 pence and has declined 20%.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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