SAS shares extend gains on sale speculation

Shares in Scandinavian airline SAS jumped nearly 10 percent on Tuesday, adding to sharp gains as speculation grew that its state owners are moving to sell the carrier.

SAS shares extend gains on sale speculation

On Monday, the stock advanced more than 11 percent after a report said Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways were all interested in SAS, in which Denmark, Norway and Sweden together own 50 percent.

Tuesday’s further gains were driven by comments from Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske setting out the conditions Oslo would want met for the sale of its 14.3 percent holding.

“Any deal [on the airline] must aim to maintain jobs, it must also ensure there is a good service for Norway and third, we want a good price for our shares,” Giske said in a TDN Finans news agency report.

Giske added that his government was not currently in talks on a sale with either Stockholm, which holds 21.4 percent in SAS, or Copenhagen, which also owns 14.3 percent.

In late Tuesday afternoon trade, SAS shares were up 9.6 percent, while the Stockholm market overall was down 0.5 percent.

In February last year, the Swedish government said it was interested in reducing its holding in SAS at an “opportune moment” and Denmark and Norway followed suit.

SAS has been hard-hit by the rise of low-cost airline Norwegian and by plunging passenger traffic numbers in the wake of the global economic crisis. Rumours of a sell-off have been circulating since 2008, with Lufthansa seen as the most probable buyer.

Late last month, SAS shares soared on rumours that Lufthansa, already an SAS partner on some routes, could make an offer for the Scandinavian company as early as the first quarter of 2011.

An SAS spokesman reached on Monday said the company would not comment on market rumours.

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.