IAG ‘no’ to Norwegian sends shares spiraling

International Airlines Group reconfirmed it has no interest in acquiring Norwegian Air after the low-cost carrier announced a raft of base closures last week.

The news sent Norwegian’s share price falling sharply to hit its lowest since November 2012.

In a statement on Thursday, British Airways and Iberia owner IAG said: “International Airlines Group does not intend to make an offer for Norwegian Air Shuttle and, in due course, will be selling its 3.93% shareholding in Norwegian.”

Norwegian chairman Bjorn Kise said in a statement: “Norwegian’s plans and strategy remain unchanged. The company’s goal is to continue building a sustainable business to the benefit of its customers, employees and shareholders.”

The carrier announced a series of base closures last week as it seeks to cut NOK2 billion or $230 million in costs.

Norwegian will shut its bases in Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas and Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Stewart (New York) and Providence (Rhode Island) in the US and its Boeing 737 base at Rome Fiumicino.

It will also close its long-haul crew bases at Amsterdam Schiphol, Bangkok and Fort Lauderdale and cut frequencies on some European short-haul routes.

Norwgeian said: “The company has reached a point where it needs to make necessary adjustments to its route portfolio in order to improve the sustainability and financial performance in this very competitive environment.”

The base closures will begin from April.

Norwegian told staff last week: “The decision about the route review has been communicated to all the unions. We will offer affected crew transfers to our bases in Oslo, Stockholm and Madrid Barajas or to our Dreamliner long-haul network.”

However, Norwegian insisted the closures “will have little or no effect on already scheduled flights and customers who have booked flights”.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary hailed the closures by Norwegian as good for Ryanair’s market share last week despite issuing a profit warning.

O’Leary noted Norwegian’s “plans to close bases where they competed head to head with Ryanair” and said: “There is short-haul overcapacity in Europe.

“We believe this lower fare environment will continue to shake out loss-making competitors.”

IAG announced last April that it had acquired a 4.6% shareholding in Norwegian with a view to exploring a potential acquisition.

But Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, announced in August that the group had ended its interest in acquiring the airline after having two bids rebuffed.

Walsh said at in August: “We’re not going to keep the shares, we’re not an investor. We bought the small stake to initiate a conversation. We’re not going to hold on to those shares.”

IAG is the parent of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and new low-cost carrier LEVEL.

The group said its stake in Norwegian had “been diluted to 3.93% as a result of subsequent share offerings issued by Norwegian”.

*This story has been updated since it was first published on Friday morning

MoreNorwegian slashes all long-haul fares from Gatwick [Jan 19]

Norwegian boss has ‘not considered’ selling the airline [Apr 18]

IAG acquires minority stake in Norwegian [Apr 18]

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