SAS sells majority share in Wideroe to investor group

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SAS Group has sold a majority stake in its regional operation Wideroe for SKr2 billion ($307 million), to a Norwegian investor group including the transport company Torghatten.

The agreement covers an 80% shareholding in Wideroe. SAS Group will retain the other 20% but will have the option of divesting it in 2016.

SAS Group will sell seven Bombardier Q400 turboprops to Wideroe which, at the moment, are leased to the airline by SAS. Another three aircraft will be sold to a third-party lessor and subsequently leased to Wideroe.

The investor group also includes Norwegian ferry company Fjord1 and the communal authority Nordland Fylkeskommune. The three investors will establish a new company, WF Holding, which will acquire the 80% stake.

SAS Group opted to divest Wideroe as part of its 4XNG restructuring programme which involved spinning off a number of assets, including the company's ground-handling division.

"Sale of Wideroe represents an important step in the improvement of SAS's financial position with a significant reduction of SAS's financial leverage," says SAS.

It says the proceeds of SKr2 billion could increase to SKr2.3 billion if it sells the entire shareholding in the Norwegian carrier - although the sale will result in a "limited capital loss" of around SKr230 million in case of full divestment in 2016.

Wideroe will remain as a partner on SAS's network.

SAS Group says the proceeds will reduce its net debt and cut, by SKr1 billion, the negative impact of amended reporting rules on pensions. It expects to close the transaction in September this year.