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State should sell SAS shares

Norway's Minister of Trade and Industry Ansgar Gabrielsen wants the state to get rid of their shares in Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS), the daily VG reports. Discussions are not yet complete.

The minister is expected to recommend the state sale when he presents an ownership report on April 19.

"I have yet to hear any good arguments for the state sitting on SAS shares worth between NOK one and 1.5 billion (USD 111-167.5 million)," Gabrielsen told VG. The Conservative Party minister has the support of coalition partners in the Liberal Party.

"The Liberals see no fundamental reason for state ownership in an airline. We should sell out eventually," said transport policy spokeswoman May Britt Vihovde. The third coalition party, the Christian Democrats, has not taken a position yet.

The Danish government also has a 14.3 percent stake in SAS and is willing to sell, but Sweden is more skeptical about unloading their 22 percent share. Norway's former governing party, Labor, opposed such a sale last year.

"I see no good reason to sell these shares. SAS is important for Norway and we need to be represented on the board," said Labor's trade and industry spokesman Olav Akselsen.