Bank Norwegian eyes Irish launchpad for European expansion

Internet bank part owned by Norwegian Air to apply for Irish banking licence

Norwegian Air is NOFI’s biggest shareholder. Photograph: iStock

Norwegian Air is NOFI’s biggest shareholder. Photograph: iStock

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Bank Norwegian, the Nordic internet bank backed by the low-cost air carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle, plans to launch financial services across Europe using an Irish banking licence.

Norwegian Finance Holding (NOFI), the owner of the bank brand in the Nordic region, says it will make its European foray in a joint venture with HBK Holding, an investment company controlled by the airline’s chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, and its chairman, Bjorn Kise.

HBK has set up a Dublin company called Lilienthal Finance, which will apply for an Irish licence from the Central Bank of Ireland. The regulator said it does not comment on banking applications.

Majority control

Lilienthal does not appear on any of the regulator’s banking registers, so its application is either pending or still being prepared. The application process for a banking licence can take up to a year. Once granted, the licence can be “passported” to provide services in any European Union member state.

Documents filed in the Companies Registration Office show Lilienthal was set up in Dublin last month with Mr Kise as a director.

A statement released by NOFI by suggests Mr Kjos and Mr Kise’s company will have majority control of the Irish-based operation. NOFI has agreed to take up 40 per cent of the shares in the Irish operation, once the licence is granted.

Norwegian Air Shuttle is the largest shareholder in Bank Norwegian with a stake of about 16 per cent . The consumer bank was set up in 2007, originally as a branch of the airline’s customer loyalty programme. It shares its headquarters with the airline, and has similar logos and branding.

The Oslo-listed bank provides services in its home market, as well as Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters)

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