Carnival Corp. revived a war for control of Norway's NCL Holding last Thursday with plans for a $1.3 billion offer, topping a bid by Malaysia's Star Cruises. (see related stories on page 4)
"Carnival Corp has informed the board of NCL that Carnival is prepared to pay 40 crowns per share for NCL Holding," NCL said in a statement. Star has offered 35 crowns per share.
Carnival's planned offer would value NCL shares at about 10.6 billion crowns ($1.3 billion). Bidders will also have to assume NCL debts of about $800 million. NCL, the world's fourth biggest cruise firm, said. Carnival's planned bid was "conditional on approval by the U.S. competition authorities, and on obtaining more than 50 percent of the company."
The planned bid is an about-face for Carnival, the world's largest cruise operator. Carnival offered 30 crowns per share for NCL on December 1 last year in a hostile bid but said it was backing out after Star raised the stakes. NCL shares rocketed to a 17-month high on the Oslo bourse to 39.5 crowns, up 2.5 from Wednesday, before slipping to close at 38.1 on concern about whether Carnival could get 50 percent. The shares have been above Star's bid in recent sessions on hopes of more offers.
Carnival apparently senses that Star's position is vulnerable even though Star already controls about 47 percent of NCL.
"The outcome (of the battle) is completely open,: NCL managing director Geir Aune, said. "It's not certain that Star will succeed."
An analyst said: "Star's options are either to sell to Carnival, keep the stake or raise its bid. But I don't think it's very likely that they will try to outbid Carnival." Star declined immediate comment on its plans.
In parallel, NCL said its board recommended shareholders against accepting Star's bid, which closes on February 10, but did not give any advice about Carnival's offer. It was unclear why NCL rather
than Carnival published news of a planned bid.
Trygve Hegnar, a board member
of NCL and a major shareholder, said Carnival's offer might not be the last. Major cruise firms P&O of Britain and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said last year they had no plans to bid. - (Reuters)