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Norwegian looks to shift 140 jets to new leasing arm

Norwegian is aiming to divest up to 140 aircraft, including Airbus jets, into a planned spin-off leasing operation, although the company has yet to decide on the structure of such a venture.

The airline had previously disclosed that it was exploring options for selling an interest in its leasing arm Arctic Aviation Assets.

Chief executive Bjorn Kjos says the company has been approached by "several" interested parties, and that an aircraft divestment was "highly likely" in the "near future".

He says that the leasing arm will take Norwegian's "excess" short-haul aircraft, including both Airbus and Boeing jets, but the company is "unlikely" to divest its widebody types.

Norwegian has 65 A320neo and 30 A321neo jets on direct order with Airbus. Kjos says some of these will be divested "when we get delivery times out of Airbus".

"It's highly likely we're going to fly at least 30 of the Airbus order," says Kjos, adding that this leaves some 70 aircraft that could be transferred to the planned leasing venture.

In its first-quarter financial disclosure, Norwegian has presented a fleet plan indicating it will have 225 aircraft by the end of 2020.

These include 58 owned 737 Max, 53 owned 737-800s, and 19 owned A321LRs, plus 53 737-800s acquired through sale-and-leaseback or regular leases. Boeing 787s will account for the other 42.

But Kjos says the airline has "not had" an agenda to fly 225 aircraft.

"It's always been the intention to divest some of the aircraft," he says, although he says that some of the jets transferred to the leasing arm could be leased back to Norwegian, especially if 140 aircraft are involved.

"That's a discussion going on with different investors," he says.

Kjos points out that the company has 70-80 aircraft arriving over the next three years, so the figure of 140 is, relatively speaking, "not that many".

"We can divest a lot of aircraft, including the Airbus order, if we're not going to fly [them]," he says.

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