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Lufthansa in contact with Norwegian Air, CEO says

[BERLIN]  Lufthansa is in contact with Norwegian Air Shuttle, also the subject of bid interest from British Airways owner IAG, the German group's chief executive told a German daily, sending Norwegian's shares higher.

"In Europe, everyone is talking to everyone. There's a new wave of consolidation approaching. That means we are also in contact with Norwegian," Carsten Spohr was quoted as saying by Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.

Asked whether Norwegian would fit with the Lufthansa group, Spohr said: "Takeovers are always a question of strategic value, the price and anti-trust. There are no easy answers."

Since IAG announced it had bought a stake in April, Norwegian Air has said it has received enquiries from several parties regarding acquisitions, transactions and other forms of cooperation.

Norwegian Air's shares opened 10 per cent higher in Oslo and by 0745 GMT traded 8.9 per cent higher at 271.00 crowns. Lufthansa shares were up 0.6 per cent, outperforming a 0.5 per cent weaker DAX index.

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Norwegian Air was not immediately available for comment.

After the failures of Air Berlin and Monarch last year, airline executives have predicted more consolidation this year in Europe, especially as rising oil prices make life tougher for carriers with weaker finances.

Spohr told Reuters earlier this month that Lufthansa would grab more takeover opportunities if they arose and that carriers were all in contact with each other.

After taking over parts of Air Berlin last year and acquiring the remaining stake in Brussels Airlines to expand its Eurowings brand, Lufthansa has also eyed Alitalia, though the sale process is being held up by political turmoil.

Lufthansa had previously been interested in Scandinavian carrier SAS, but two years ago said it had decided not to invest.

IAG's CEO has said that he will not engage in a bidding war for Norwegian, repeating to shareholders last week that Norwegian was not a deal the group had to do.


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