A sale of budget carrier Norwegian failed to materialise last year amid Brexit uncertainty, it has been reported.

Chairman Bjorn Kise said that he and chief executive Bjorn Kjos, who is also a major shareholder, had a plan to sell the airline to an unnamed bidder before Christmas.

“In November a stakeholder approached us with a bid. The offer was good enough for us to proceed, and it was supported by the board,” Kise told Norwegian news site E24.

However, the bidder kept delaying an announcement amid economic uncertainty.

“There was a lot of market turbulence in December, and no clarity on Brexit,” Kise said.

The carrier’s shares fell by 25% last week after it was forced to go to shareholders to raise cash.

The 3 billion Norwegian krone fundraising came after bids from British Airways owner International Airlines Group were rejected last year as being too low. IAG now plans to sell its 3.93% stake.

A vote on the rights issue is due on February 19, with around a third of shareholders are already on board, Norwegian said.

Kjos said the rights issue was planned in secret as the stakeholder kept delaying.

“We had to ensure that we had liquidity and capital. We have never been in breach of our credit limits, and never will be,” he told E24.

The disclosure came as it was reported by The Sunday Times that credit card processing companies withheld payments from the airline amid fears about its future.

Norwegian told the newspaper: “Some acquirers had taken the decision to hold back payments but the situation has now improved and is stable due to our liquidity situation.”

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