Norway’s competition authority (Konkurransetilsynet) has approved the planned acquisition by Norwegian (Oslo Gardermoen) of domestic rival carrier Widerøe (WF, Bodø), despite giving the deal its interim refusal one month ago.

The watchdog has “investigated the acquisition thoroughly,” said its director, Tina Søreide, on December 21. “Among other things, the authority has collected and reviewed extensive documentation from the parties and other players in the market.”

She explained that it was previously concerned that the acquisition could significantly weaken competition in the market. Following the parties’ responses to its preliminary refusal - Norwegian had said it “strongly disagreed” with the notice - it “carried out further analyses and assessments [and] has now come to the conclusion that there are insufficient grounds to stop the acquisition.”

She added: “We have now concluded that this acquisition will not significantly hinder effective competition in the Norwegian aviation market. Therefore, the acquisition can now be carried out.”

The deal, which was announced in July, is valued at NOK1.13 billion kroner (USD110 million). The authority had set January 3 as its final deadline for making a decision in the case.

Norwegian has emphasised that its intention is to keep Widerøe as a separate entity running its own AOC and existing branding under its own management, with its headquarters remaining in Bodø. The two carriers say they complement each other and “are not in a real competitive situation,” arguing that they overlap on just two of their more than 400 routes. However, the only other competitor left working the domestic market is SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SK, Copenhagen Kastrup).

In a joint statement on December 21, Norwegian and Widerøe said the two carriers represent “complementary offers in Norway and internationally.” The choice of flights “will be strengthened, among other things, by connecting Widerøe’s extensive regional route network and Norwegian’s national and international routes more closely. Widerøe covers more than 40 small and medium-sized airports throughout Norway, in addition to some larger airports in Europe. Norwegian, for its part, flies over 300 routes in the high season to more than 120 destinations in the Nordics and Europe.”

According to ch-aviation fleets data, Widerøe operates 49 aircraft, namely twenty DHC-8-100s, three DHC-8-Q100s, three DHC-8-Q200s, four DHC-8-Q300s, sixteen DHC-8-Q400s, and three E190-E2s. It flies a variety of public service obligation, regional, and international routes to 56 airports in 11 countries, commanding a 20% market share within Norway. It reported revenue of NOK5.7 billion (USD556 million) in 2022 as opposed to Norwegian’s NOK18.9 billion (USD1.84 billion).

Norwegian operates forty-nine B737-800s plus a further twenty-nine under its Norwegian Air Sweden AOC (D8, Stockholm Arlanda), as well as twenty-five B737-8s across the two AOCs with sixty-six more on this type to be delivered from its own order backlog and lessors. Options for another 30 could be converted into B737-10s.