SAS Jumps in Stockholm After Boersen Report of `Bidding War' for Airline

SAS AB, the biggest Nordic airline, rose to the highest price in eight weeks after a Danish newspaper reported that Air France-KLM Group, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and British Airways Ltd. would be ready to enter a bidding war over the carrier.

SAS jumped 2.50 kronor, or 11 percent, to 25 kronor at the 5:30 p.m. close of trading in Stockholm. Borsen reported on Dec. 31, without citing anyone, that all major airlines would be interested if a sale process starts.

SAS, which is 50 percent-owned by the governments of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, is struggling with low-cost competition after losing money in all but one of the past 12 quarters. Lufthansa, Europe’s second-largest carrier, may announce takeover plans for SAS as early as the first half of the year, a person with knowledge of the plans said last month, asking not to be identified because no decision has been made.

Claudia Lange, a Lufthansa spokeswoman, Air France-KLM’s Brigitte Barrand and British Airways’ Philip Allport all declined to comment when reached by Bloomberg News. Anders Lindstrom, a SAS spokesman, also declined to comment.

Acting Chief Executive Officer John Dueholm is set to hand over SAS’s top position to Rickard Gustafson this quarter. Gustafson was named to the CEO position in September, taking over from Mats Jansson, who unexpectedly quit with one year left on his contract.

Air Berlin, Ryanair

The carrier’s unraveling began in the last decade as low- cost carriers Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, Ryanair Holdings Plc and Air Berlin Plc began stealing customers looking for cheaper flights and Finnair concentrated on lucrative Asian destinations. SAS was slow to respond, hampered by almost 40 different unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

SAS shares slumped 56 percent in 2010. British Airways gained 46 percent. Lufthansa added 39 percent and Air France gained 24 percent.

Borsen’s report cited Dueholm as saying “there is every reason to believe” that Europe’s three biggest carriers would be interested if SAS were to be put up for sale, and that the Scandinavian carrier would be an attractive purchase by the end of the year.

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