Norwegian intends to stick to its strategy to sell up to 140 aircraft, the airline wrote in an investor presentation Sept. 4, confirming plans for large-scale asset disposals.

The LCC hopes to “disclose news about the transaction” before the end of the year, CFO Geir Karlsen told investors, referring to efforts to hand on most of its big order for Airbus A320neo family aircraft to another customer.

According to Airbus, Norwegian has firm orders for 65 A320neos and 30 A321neos (the LR variant capable of transatlantic range flying). “The Airbus A320neos are for all practical purposes for sale,” Karlsen said. The fate of the larger variant is not as clear as the airline may choose to keep some of them for Norwegian Air Argentina. The airline has also started selling of some of its older Boeing 737-800s, six of which are to leave the fleet this year.

Norwegian plans to operate 164 aircraft by the end of this year, 20 more than at the end of 2017.

The airline has reported a poor financial performance for some time as it continues to expand fast, in particular on its long-haul routes.

In the first half of its financial year, the airline posted a NOK2.07 billion ($246 million) operating loss, although it made a small net profit as a result of exceptional items. Norwegian bolstered finances through a capital increase earlier this year but is seeking more ways to stabilize its financial position further. International Airlines Group (IAG) bought a 4.6% stake in Norwegian earlier this year with a view toward a potential full takeover, but talks failed in May and IAG indicated it may sell the shares again. Norwegian said at the time it has received other approaches, too. Among them was Lufthansa, which confirmed that it was “in discussions” with Norwegian.

If Norwegian does not find a buyer quickly, which is looking increasingly unlikely, it must make sure its financials are secure without the help of a new investor.

But deliveries of the aircraft on order may force Norwegian into a major capital expenditure should the orders be retained. Norwegian expects it must finance $1.75 billion in 2018 for aircraft purchases and pre-delivery payments (PDP), a figure that could rise to $2.2 billion next year.

In addition to the Airbus order, Norwegian also bought 110 Boeing 737 MAXs, eight of which have been delivered to date.

Transferring an order to a customer is complicated as typically the manufacturer and financiers have to agree. One industry source said Norwegian is unlikely to be able to hand over the order in one piece and would be more likely to find interested parties for smaller tranches. However, that process would likely take more time.

Separately, the airline has started selling tickets for the first flights of its Argentinian affiliate, which is scheduled to launch operations Oct. 16. Success of the Argentinian carrier is key to the future of the A321LRs, the first of which are due to arrive in 2019. Originally, they were to be used on transatlantic services from Europe, but these plans appear to have been dropped in favor of either disposal or a partial move to South America.

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com