Oslo Refuses Another Norwegian Air Bailout

Oslo, Nov 9 (AFP/APP): Norway’s government refused Monday to mount another bailout for struggling low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle which said the “slap in the face” meant its future was uncertain.

“Norwegian asked for help in the billions (of kroner) and the government believes, that in the current situation, this is not the best use of taxpayer money”, Commerce and Industry Minister Iselin Nybo said. “Such aid could also be deemed anti-competitive,” he added in a statement.

Norwegian is ranked third among European low-cost carriers but its future has been clouded for several years as an ambitious expansion programme saddled it with a mountain of debt. The coronavirus pandemic only made the problem worse, bringing air travel to a virtual halt and forcing most airlines to seek government help to ride out the crisis. Norwegian said the government’s decision was “very disappointing and feels like a slap in the face for everybody at Norwegian who is fighting for the company when our competitors are receiving billions in funding from their respective governments.”

“Without support, the way forward has become much more uncertain”, airline head Jacob Schram said in a statement.

Asked about the possibility of bankruptcy, Schram said nothing could be ruled out but the airline was working on other options and he believed it would be successful once again in finding a solution. Norwegian got a first bailout earlier this year worth three billion kroner (277 million euros) but has repeatedly sought additional aid as it slashes services and jobs in an effort to survive the winter. For the six months to June, the company ran up losses of some 5.4 billion kroner.

On the Oslo bourse, the shares lost 20 percent in early trade but then recovered some lost ground to trade down 17 percent.

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