The Nordic’s flagship SAS sees two of its government shareholders reduce their stake – could this lead the way for a takeover?

Yesterday saw the announcement that the Swedish and Norwegian governments had reduced their shareholding in the region’s flagship airline to 17.2 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively, however the Danish government at this point has not shown any inclination to join in and sell any of its 14.2 per cent holding. The Swedish government says that this is “the first step in a gradual and responsible disposal of the Swedish and Norwegian state’s ownership” and is intended to “strengthen” SAS, which bases itself in Stockholm but has Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport as its main hub. All three governments increased their original shareholdings back in 2010 when the airline was unprofitable and was, like many airlines, feeling the strain of the economic downturn.

SAS was one of the founding members of Star Alliance, currently the world’s second largest airline alliance by passenger count, so this deal is likely to reignite the rumours from earlier in 2016 of a possible acquisition of SAS by Deutsche Lufthansa, also one of the original five founders. Luthansa appears to have its hands quite full at the moment though, as it is has stated its intention to take full ownership of Brussels Airlines early next year and is also busy contributing to Airberlin’s restructuring plan by wet leasing 40 aircraft from them, enabling Airberlin to reduce its losses and liabilities. That said, if the price is right, then a company like Lufthansa might see this as an opportunity that is too good to delay.