Norwegian Air Builds Up London Long-Haul Office to Lure Talent

(Bloomberg) -- Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is consolidating the team that runs its long-haul flights in London as the debt-laden carrier seeks to add executive talent at a unit crucial to its survival in the ultra-competitive discount market.

The company is building a 16-strong contingent in the city, leaving just a few dedicated staff at its main base in Fornebu, near Oslo, Matthew Wood, its senior vice president for commercial long-haul and new markets, said in an interview.

Norwegian picked London as the main office for the long-haul business to help tap a bigger pool of international expertise after establishing Gatwick airport, south of the capital, as its biggest intercontinental hub. The operation serves 11 U.S cities plus Buenos Aires, to be joined by Rio de Janeiro from March 31.

The airline has been working on the office changes for nine months, according to Wood, who previously split his time between London and the group’s Scandinavian headquarters. He still travels regularly to Oslo for meetings.

Norwegian is due to report earnings on Thursday, when investors and analysts will be looking to hear how the company plans to sustain its business after British Airways owner IAG SA said Jan. 24 it had abandoned takeover plans, sending the stock tumbling 26 percent.

Rights Issue

The Nordic carrier responded by shoring up its finances with a move to raise 3 billion kroner ($352 million) in a rights issue backed by investors including shipping magnate John Fredriksen. It’s also seeking 2 billion kroner in cost cuts and working with an even higher figure internally, a spokesman said.

The airline deepened capacity curbs Wednesday with deferrals to narrow-body aircraft deliveries that will reduce short-term capital spending. Four Airbus SE 321LR aircraft due this year will now arrive in 2020, while 12 Boeing Co. 737 MAX jets due next year have been put back to 2023 and 2024.

The stock traded 1.5 percent higher as of 4:12 p.m. in Oslo, paring the decline this year to 27 percent.

Increases in headcount in London despite the uncertainties of Brexit come as a boost to the city amid concern that the split will provoke an exodus of companies and professionals, though the numbers involved at Norwegian Air are small and the carrier’s home country itself sits outside the European Union.

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