Lufthansa emerges as rival to IAG for Norwegian

Lufthansa emerges as rival to IAG for Norwegian

Lufthansa has emerged as a rival to British Airways owner International Airlines Group as a potential bidder for low-cost carrier Norwegian.

Shares in Norwegian jumped more than 10% yesterday following comments made by Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“In Europe, everyone is talking to everyone. There’s a new wave of consolidation approaching. That means we are also in contact with Norwegian,” he was quoted as saying.

Asked whether Norwegian would fit with the Lufthansa group, Spohr said: “Takeovers are always a question of strategic value, the price and anti-trust. There are no easy answers.”

Norwegian reiterated on Monday that it had been approached by potential buyers and investors following an announcement in April that IAG had taken a 4.6% stake in the carrier.

Chief executive Bjorn Kjos confirmed to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that Lufthansa had been in touch with the airline’s advisors, and he had personally exchanged text messages with Lufthansa’s boss.

Kjos declined to comment on the contact, adding that he personally thought that it was “a bit too early” to sell the company.

Norwegian’s shares closed in Oslo 10% higher.

Spohr told Reuters earlier this month that Lufthansa would grab more takeover opportunities if they arose and that carriers were all in contact with each other.

Norwegian would fit well with Eurowings, Lufthansa’s low-cost brand, a source told the news agency.

“The advantage is that it’s a functioning flight operation with low costs,” the source said.

After taking over parts of Air Berlin last year and acquiring the remaining stake in Brussels Airlines to expand its Eurowings brand, Lufthansa has also eyed Alitalia, but the sale process is being held up by political turmoil in Italy.

Airline executives have predicted more consolidation in Europe after the failures of Air Berlin and Monarch last year, especially as rising oil prices make life tougher for carriers with weaker finances.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh confirmed last week that the group remained interested in Norwegian “at the right price”.

The told the Guild of Travel Management Companies conference in Ireland: “We’ve had no contact for two months, [but] we’re watching.”

Walsh said: “Norwegian is a good airline. It has proven consumers will buy the [low-cost long-haul] product. But it has not been able to generate a profit. We believe we can operate in that sector profitably.”

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