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Takeover targets abound in Norway

Foreign investors are lining up with funds in hand to take over some of Norway's major travel and tourism firms, if given the chance.

Foreign investors are lining up with funds in hand to take over some of Norway's major travel and tourism firms, if given the chance. Targets include such ultra-Norwegian institutions as the coastal voyage Hurtigruten and Norwegian Air.
 
Strong prospects for the travel and tourism industries are making airlines, hotels and other transport lines increasingly attractive. Norway's booming economy and travel-happy population adds to the attraction.
 
"Hurtigruten is a fantastic product, but it's struggling (under its current ownership structure)," claimed Dag Tveterås, a longtime travel industry player in Norway.
 
Tveterås told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv late last week that he knows of investors and cruise lines that would love to get their hands on Hurtigruten, which has been running weekly voyages along the Norwegian coast from Bergen north to Kirkenes for decades.
 
Vagn Sørensen, a former director of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Austrian Airlines, agrees. "Hurtigruten is sitting on a gold mine, but the ownership situation is impossible," he said. "I know of at least 10 private equity funds who are itching to move in."
 
Norwegian Air, which started up a few years ago to challenge SAS, has captured a large market share and has costs under control. It's also considered a possible takeover target, as is Color Line, the cruise-ferry company running new ships between Oslo and Kiel, Germany, along with several other lines.
 
Even some of state railway NSB's most popular routes could be spun off and sold, like the route between Oslo and Bergen. "It could become the 'Snow Train' or the 'Mountain Route,' where the goal wouldn't be to travel between the two cities the fastest but rather to enjoy the experience," Tveterås said.
 
Local outcry and government regulations could likely hinder such deals, as Norwegians generally fight any takeover of local assets by foreign interests.

High-flying Norwegian Air is also reportedly attracting takeover interest.
The ultra-Norwegian coastal voyage firm Hurtigruten is viewed as a tempting takeover target.