Icelanders purchase Sterling – might start flights to Thailand shortly

Copenhagen-based airline Sterling continues its constant growth in number of passengers, will double its number of flights in the near future in 2005, and is considering starting low-cost flights to Asia.
     At the same time the two Fred Olsen-related companies Bonheur ASA and Ganger Rolf ASA, each owning 50 per cent of the airline, have made a principle agreement with Fons Eignarhaldsfelag (Fons) on a sale of Sterling at a purchase price of DKK 400 million.
     Fons is an Icelandic investment company controlled by the two partners Mr. Palmi Haraldsson and Mr. Johannes Kristinsson who have previously been large shareholders in Icelandair, and are the current owners of the low-fare airline Iceland Express. Their investments further comprise a number of ownership interests in large international companies.
     Mr. Harald Andresen, the present CEO of Sterling comments: “Sterling has for a long period of time focused on the need for a consolidation within the airline industry. I believe that the change of ownership will result in a further vitalizing and consolidation as Island Express will be merged into Sterling. I am proud of the willingness and ability that has been demonstrated towards changes in a constrained period for the airline industry.”
     For Bonheur and Ganger Rolf, the sale sees the end of a 70 years era within the airline business after having succeeded in establishing Sterling as the leading low-fare airline in Scandinavia.
     A comment says that: “Within the airline industry we realize that the requirement for critical mass is ever increasing at the same time as our companies’ investment strategy do not cater for a further escalation within this sector.”
     “Sterling will grow substantially, both in regards to number of flights and passengers. Short-term I expect doubling the number of aircrafts from 10 to 20,” says the administrative director Almar Orn Hilmarsson to the Danish newspaper Politiken.
     “There are a number of niches on the low-cost airline market, for example regarding long-haul flights. We will take a decision shortly whether or not to start flying to USA. Thailand is another opportunity. As an airline we must fly where the customers want to go. Many Nordic customers today choose Thailand as their holiday destination, says the Director”
     For more than 2 years now, Sterling has been able to show a monthly continuous escalation in number of passengers. Sterling had 13 % more guests on board its fleet during April 2005 compared to April 2004 with a load factor of 78.3 %. Sterling expects to have more than 1 million passengers during 2005 and make a profit.
     Sterling also collaborates with the airline Norwegian in the first major low-fare airline alliance

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