Norwegian's chief executive Bjorn Kjos has revealed that the field of bidders for the airline includes Lufthansa as well as IAG and is not limited to those two.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Airport Council International (ACI) annual general meeting in Brussels today, Kjos said that the bidders included both European and non-European airlines, but he did not disclose their identities or how many bids had been submitted to date, stating simply: "There are definitely more than two."
Kjos says new bidders came forward after IAG revealed in April that it had acquired a 4.61% shareholding in Norwegian.
IAG subsequently made two takeover bids, both of which were rejected by Norwegian's board. Kjos says he does not know if the group will make another attempt.
He stresses that he is not part of the process. "It is the board that is handling this, of course, together with their advisers; and I am the chief executive and have to run the company."
Kjos adds: "I cannot decide who owns Norwegian. I own a quarter of it; the rest, three-fourths, is owned by other people. I have to listen to what the other shareholders say. I will not be the one stopping anyone [from acquiring Norwegian]."
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh and Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr are described by Kjos as "really smart guys who know how to run an airline".
Kjos notes that Norwegian now has a "fairly large" presence in the USA as well as in Europe, with more than 60 intercontinental routes and an extensive short-haul network, which could explain bidders' motivation in seeking to acquire the budget carrier.
"If you think about it, we have a really large footprint in London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and, not least, the major cities in the US, so I can why they are interested."
Norwegian's continued search for a partner to become a shareholder in its Arctic Aviation Assets leasing business is a matter separate from the bidding process, says Kjos. The airline could find a partner to acquire some of Arctic's aircraft this year, he indicates.
Speaking earlier at the conference, Kjos had said that Norwegian, without "waving the flag that we are for sale", took the interest from the likes of IAG and Lufthansa as a "good sign that we are doing things right".
Source: Cirium Dashboard