Lufthansa and IAG could enter a clash of titans over Norwegian
The low cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle could become the prize of a fight between two giants of the European aviation industry: International Airlines Group (IAG) and Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) . After a stake acquisition in April 2018 by IAG and several bids for a full buyout, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) revealed it was also in contact with Norwegian over a similar proposition.
After a quick developing period, the low cost company Norwegian hit some serious financial difficulties. The company was at a loss in three of the last four years. After a profit of $136 million in 2016, the carrier reported a loss of $38.5 million in 2017. The company also currently holds a debt of $2 billion, putting the total acquisition price at around $3 billion.
International Airlines Group (IAG) , the aviation giant formed by British Airways and Iberia in 2011, was quick to see an opportunity in Norwegian’s demise and acquired a 4.61% stake in the company on April 12, 2018, with the potential for a full acquisition. IAG eyes at the long-haul operations of Norwegian. The cheap transcontinental flights already offered by the LCC could be a new addition for IAG, saving on legacy costs if it had to set up similar operations. However, Norwegian reportedly refused two of IAG’s buyout offers already, deemed to low.
But another European titan set its eyes on Norwegian. In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr reported being in discussions with the low-cost carrier. “There is another wave of consolidation, which means that we are also in contact with Norwegian,” he said, adding that the prospect of an acquisition is “a question of strategic added value, of the price and of the competitive possibilities.”
The bids from several parties was confirmed by a spokesperson from Norwegian. “These parties have expressed indicative and preliminary interest in share acquisitions, mergers, structured transactions, financing of the group and various forms of operational and financial cooperation,” he said to Skynews.
Norwegian currently holds several attractive slots at Gatwick airport, notably after buying some of late Monarch’s. An acquisition would either help IAG solidify its transatlantic structure – Gatwick being British Airways’ main hub – or give an opportunity for Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) to challenge its competitor on its own ground. The fleet of Norwegian is also extremely attractive, as its 147 aircraft (29 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 118 Boeing 737-800) compose one of the youngest fleets on the market.
Meanwhile, the last of the three Europe-based giants, Air France-KLM, seems too preoccupied by its own internal conflicts to take part in this consolidation of the European skies.
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