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SAS Pilots Say Wideroe Bid Needs Norway Backer to Take 66% Stake

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- SAS Group employees seeking to purchase the Stockholm-based company’s Norwegian regional arm Wideroe, for which they work, said the proposal requires local backers willing to take a two-thirds stake in the enterprise.

“A lot of people have contacted us and we’re in touch with the big financial houses in Norway,” Ola Giaever, the pilot who is leading the buyout bid, said in a phone interview. “Many investors say ‘yes’ to being part of a company like Wideroe when the employees join in. Those are the signals we’re getting.”

SAS said yesterday it’s completing plans to sell 3 billion kronor ($450 million) in assets, without specifying what might be auctioned off. Wideroe more than doubled pretax profit to 430 million kronor last year, excluding one-time items, just as the main Scandinavian Airlines unit suffered a 33 percent slump to 543 million kronor even on sales that were 10 times greater.

“We need professional owners,” said Giaever, who yesterday wrote to SAS Chairman Fritz Schur and Chief Executive Officer Rickard Gustafson proposing that Wideroe continue to work with the larger carrier following any takeover. “Employees should have ownership but not the majority.”

Bodoe-based Wideroe is the biggest regional airline in Scandinavia, employing 1,400 people and carrying 2 million passengers a year to 40-plus Norwegian and six international destinations, according to its website. Owned by SAS since 2002, the carrier operates 39 Bombardier Inc. Dash 8 turboprops.

SAS hasn’t indicated whether it would sell Wideroe, Giaever said, adding that the potential price tag is uncertain and would depend on the terms of any deal to continue with feeder flights.

The biggest Nordic carrier is deepening cost cuts and exploring disposals as it seeks the first annual profit on a net basis since 2007. “We never comment on ownership issues,” SAS spokeswoman Malin Selander said by phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ola Kinnander in Stockholm at okinnander@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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