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Firms may challenge SAS monopoly

Norsk Hydro and a host of other Norwegian companies may try to launch their own domestic airline, if SAS actually takes over local carrier Braathens. They fear higher ticket prices if competition disappears. A Hydro official told newspaper Nationen that the large industrial conglomerate may team up with other players that rely on air transport within the country. The idea would be to run their own domestic service to fill the gap left by Braathens. Statoil also has expressed concern over the prospect of SAS taking over Braathens, but wouldn't comment on Hydro's idea. Investor Trygve Hegnar downplayed the plan, calling it an "amusing thought" but unrealistic because it would require large amounts of capital and a fleet of at least 30 aircraft. Hegnar himself had expressed interest in taking over Braathens with a group of other investors, but the plan fell apart. SAS won the nod from reluctant regulators earlier this week, but still must iron out a deal with Braathens. SAS already has said it wants to lower its price for Braathens, make huge staffing and route cuts and ground several aircraft.