Norwegian’s risky fleet expansion

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

February 15, 2017, © Leeham Co.: In our review of Norwegian Air Shuttle last week (Norwegian from now on), we pointed out the company’s relatively weak balance sheet. It’s considerably weaker than its direct competitors.

At the same time, Norwegians’ fleet expansion is the most aggressive outside of boom markets like India or Indonesia.

Norwegian ordered 200 narrow body aircraft in 2012. It ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8s in January and 100 Airbus A320neos in June.  This compares to a narrow body fleet of 70 at the time and a fleet of 100 today (mainly 737-800s). In addition, Norwegian has 30 Boeing 787 long haul aircraft on order on top of the 12 it operates today.

How much risk do these 230 incoming aircraft pose to Norwegian?

Summary:
  • Presently, Norwegian absorbs 50% of incoming single aisle aircraft for own needs (Boeing 737-800 and later MAX 8).
  • The other 50% (deliveries of Airbus A320neo) are leased to external operators.
  • The financing need for incoming aircraft, be it for own or other’s use, is $15bn over the coming years.
  • With a balance sheet of of only twice that size and 10% own equity, the going can get rough if the market weakens.

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