Shares in Scandinavian carrier SAS surged on Thursday after a report that Lufthansa planned a takeover, giving new buzz to a long talked-of match.
The idea of a takeover has been a recurring theme as SAS, half owned by Denmark, Norway and Sweden, continued to struggle with losses after a series of costly restructuring plans.
"The story has sparked rumours of an imminent bid. With all the buzz on M&A at the moment, any sort of speculation can send a stock through the roof," said one Geneva-based trader.
A person close to Lufthansa said there were no talks between SAS and the German carrier concerning any possible takeover at the moment, chiming with the Lufthansa's most recent statements.
Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber said on October 28 that the carrier would hold off from major acquisitions until it had integrated and turned around recent buys. "There is nothing worth reporting at the moment," he said at the time.
Lufthansa, which bought Austrian Airlines, bmi, and Brussels Airlines last year, has been touted as a possible buyer for SAS as well as Poland's LOT.
SAS shares at one point were up 15 percent on Thursday. Its shares are down 54 percent this year, against a 23 percent climb in the broad Stockholm index.
"These rumours have come and gone over the years and I do not think there is anything more in them now than there was before," said Fondsfinans analyst Hans Erik Jacobsen in Oslo.
"I do not think it is particularly probable that Lufthansa would want to buy SAS when the situation is so shaky."
Traders said the SAS rise came after Bloomberg reported a "person familiar with the matter" as having said Lufthansa may announce takeover plans for SAS as early as the first half of 2011, pending talks with the governments.
Lufthansa, SAS and the Swedish and Norwegian governments declined to comment on the report.
Fund manager Christer Swaretz said the share rise in SAS was exaggerated by tight liquidity. He also called the share reaction a so-called "dead cat bounce" after the share's decline this year.
"We do not like SAS and we do not think there are grounds for this type of speculation. Now everyone seems to want to believe and hope, but we must look at the general direction and that is a downwards spiral for SAS," he added.
A tie-up with SAS, which is a partner with Lufthansa in the global Star Alliance, would strengthen the airlines' dominance of routes between Germany and Scandinavia and provide feeder traffic for Lufthansa's hubs such as Frankfurt.
But Lufthansa currently still has its hands full trying to turn around bmi and Austrian Airlines, the person close to the carrier said.
Lufthansa Chairman Juergen Weber on November 2 signalled, though, that Lufthansa had not completely lost interest in buying SAS. "The takeover has not worked out so far, but let us wait and see."