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Norwegian blames Brexit for sale failure

A sale of the airline Norwegian was backed by the board, the chairman and CEO but was stopped by external factors.

A credible offer to buy Norwegian fell through due to a “lack of clarity” on Brexit, chairman Bjørn Kise has told the Norwegian news website E24.

Kise confirms that the board of his company had received an offer from a stakeholder which was “good enough to proceed”. This was “supported by the board,” he adds, although he does not name the stakeholder.

He and chief executive Bjørn Kjos were on board to sell. But the bid was delayed and eventually fell through, Kise says, because of “no clarity on Brexit” and “market turbulence in December”.

International Airlines Group took a 4.61% stake in Norwegian last April with a view to making a full bid for the low-cost carrier, which continues to be a direct competitor on transatlantic routes that has undercut fare prices.

But IAG’s interest faded in August after its two preliminary bids were rebuffed, and it finally revealed last month that it would dispose of its shareholding.

Shares in Norwegian fell sharply last week after it announced an emergency €309 million rights issue to shore up the company’s finances. There will be a vote on the rights issue on February 19.

Kise tells E24 that there were as many as five companies interested in buying Norwegian last year after IAG expressed an interest.

Withholding payments
Meanwhile, the UK newspaper The Times reports that credit card companies have withheld payments from Norwegian in recent months due to fears the carrier could collapse, putting further pressure on its precarious situation.

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

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