The former Norwegian president spoke about Corona, new major investments, the wave of refugees and the sale of the Norges Bank to the Swedes.
It happens that Bjørn Kjos goes on a rampage. The 75-year-old airman, an avid sailor, golfer, and skater, had had his downturns. Last winter, he went cross-country skiing at a fairly high speed down a ski slope and fell. It was thrown into the ice and went through it. The shoulder is out of the joint. The Red Cross had to take the businessman off the ski slope and take him to the hospital. There they held their shoulder back in place under severe pain.
– Terribly painful. Not good at all, says the 75-year-old.
It wasn’t the only downturn in 2020.
At the beginning of the year, Kjos was on a ski vacation abroad and spoke to some acquaintances. They were very concerned about how strong the new coronavirus would be in Wuhan and northern Italy. They were surprised that he had not yet come to Norway.
Until then, Kjos expected the new disease to go away quickly. In the end he realized that this was more serious and not least the disastrous consequences it would have for the tourism industry and the company he founded, Norwegian.
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– This is not over after three months, as I first thought. I was wrong there and did it often. What’s important, Kjos says, is to accept its consequences and make changes.
With Corona, this resulted in him and his business partner Bjorn Halvor selling a case from the airline and Norwegian industry in the spring of 2020. Kjos moved the company from the brink of bankruptcy in 2003 to one of Europe’s largest airlines in 2010.
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But also as the head of Norway, Kjos probably took too much speed down the hill. He dreamed of making Norwegian a large transcontinental airline that would fly between Europe and North America at very low prices. The dream shattered under the weight of the Corona pandemic, but even before that sky high debt, fly with Fatal error And Engine problems ruined a lot.
But Kjos did not give up on the dream for this reason. He’s in full swing establishing a new company, Norse Atlantic Airways. It should be what Norwegian can no longer be, an airline that takes you across the Atlantic for cheap money.
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The first flights will start in 2022.
– Gull has every chance to do a good job. I still believe in the concept, says Kjos.
– Are you a very optimistic person?
It is not the pessimists who build the world. Why should you be pessimistic? Caius says and smiles.
But Norse is not the only new Norwegian airline to join in recent years. Flyr, the new investment of aircraft heir Eric Bratten, will now challenge Norwegian and SAS. However, Kjos is skeptical.
Kjos points out that when he took over the Norwegian airline, they had only one competitor: SAS, which sold expensive airline tickets. But, despite the good competitive conditions, the newly created company lasted for a long time with a large deficit.
– When we started Norwegian, we had people living in barracks and in apartments instead of hotels. However, we lost a lot of money in the first two years. But we had the advantage of competing only with SAS, which was then the most expensive airline in the world per kilometer. But Flyr must compete not only against SAS, but also against Norwegian, says Kjos.
It is not easy to start a new airline. I hope everyone who stares at it succeeds, but the aviation industry is very difficult, he says.
But no matter how many airlines are in Norwegian airspace: Kjos is sure that people’s travel habits will change a lot after Corona.
People get more time to travel, because their workday is more flexible. You’re only in the office maybe 50-60 percent of the time, the other 40 percent in the home office. At the same time, jobs will change, everything will become more digital, and traditional jobs will be much less, says Kjos.
Besides the fact that people work more in the home office, they want to live longer, Kjos points out.
People retire longer. It would require an almost entirely different society, says Caius, who himself resigned as the top manager at the age of 73.
But while people like to travel more in their spare time, they like to travel less for work, according to the entrepreneur’s glass globe.
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You don’t want to travel to London for a board meeting, you take it to Meet, but you can go to London for shopping instead. I also think the time for big conferences is over. Business trips in general are much less, travel to work, which is really good, good for the community and good for emissions, says Kjos.
emissions, yes. Because even though the aviation industry accounts for only 2% of the world’s climate emissions (before corona), there is no doubt that the demands for industry cuts are significant at the time of the aviation industry.
But it is not easy.
– I was at a conference in Germany a few years ago where they showed an electric plane. There they said a twelve-seater could be ready by the end of the twenties. But the battery of a regular Airbus plane weighs the same as the plane. He says it’s clear that we need completely new technology before the aviation industry can go fully electric.
Keos stresses that he is concerned about the effects of climate change, not least as it is leading to large areas of the globe, such as the Sahel region south of the Sahara, simply. dry up.
You and I were refugees, we grew up in places like this.
I think people underestimate the number of people who will come to places like Europe when people in other parts of the world lose their livelihood. I think the refugee flows that we have started from Africa and across Eastern Europe are just the beginning. Even at best we’ll see more people walking around to survive, says Kjos, who believes it will lead to a change in society in Norway, and they have no other choice.
– How to deal with it is not an easy task. You are changing the structure of society. We were lucky and the immigrants we brought to Norway were incredibly good. It’s not the sluggish and talentless walkers, but those who move up and down, says Kjos who still anticipates political challenges as a result of the refugee waves.
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We’ve already seen it in many places, not least in the United States. He says and laughs, Fortunately, I’m not a politician.
In 2018, the owner of British Airways IAG made an offer to buy Norwegian Air. The price was secret, but it should have been around 300 NOK per share. It is anyway a sale that made Kjos many billions.
But the acquisition never materialized, and a year later the stock price was only a fraction of what it was. The track was dragged downhill due to an engine problem, which contributed to this Big losses for the sake of the company. At the same time, it turned out that the MAX aircraft, which was ordered in large numbers by the Norwegian and was so important for long-haul investment, was made a tragic error that led to To crash two planes in a short time. All aircraft had to be placed on the ground.
– How sorry are you that you didn’t reject IAG’s offer right away?
– It wasn’t that simple. There were many things that came up at that time, including IAG that had problems with its own plane, so everything became more and more difficult. They had to fix it first. Meanwhile the aura came, so many things were happening at the same time. But I had planned to retire anyway at the time, so I didn’t have much to say to myself, says Kjos.
– Would it have meant a lot of money to you if the agreement came to fruition?
– Yes, but you can’t take anything with you anyway. But it was a disgrace to the other shareholders. That’s what I think of the most, says Kjos, who stresses that he doesn’t have too fancy habits.
– I’ve lived the same life for 40 years. I love going to the mountains and sailing in the summer. He says I owned the same sailboat ten years ago.
However, the sale that became a thing was the acquisition of the company that owns Norwegian Finans Holding by a Swedish company. Nordax. This means that the company with popular credit cards, which may have been one of Kjos’ big success stories, ends up overseas.
Kjos was critical when the news came, and he remains critical today.
Read more here: Bjørn Kjos thinks that the Norwegian bank is selling cheap
We tend to shovel everything out when it comes off here at home. It is a pity that the Norwegian Bank was taken over by foreign owners. Kjos says it’s a pity that it all goes abroad, but we may not have built enough efficiency here at home either.
When Kjos resigned as the Norwegian CEO, the company brought in Jacob Schramm, the former CEO of Circle K, at the beginning of 2020. A year and a half after the Corona pandemic thereafter, he was fired, and he was replaced by Norwegian Chief Financial Officer Geir Carlsen. Carlsen was the man many expected and thought would be Kjos’ replacement in the first place.
Kjos himself thought it was surprising that they chose Schramm.
– He had no industry experience, so picking one from the outside was surprising to me, and Geir Carlsen is very good. It’s not the CEO’s job to pick his successor, but my position was pretty clear, I wanted Carlsen, whom I knew to be a good guy, to take over after me, says Keus.
New major investment
Besides Norse, Kjos’ main investment is currently the Norwegian Block Exchange. Kjos is sure that the future belongs to blockchain technology.
– I am fascinated – not with cryptocurrency – but with the technology behind it, blockchain technology. I think it comes across the board, especially the ability to transfer money around the world at much lower costs. Everyone thinks cryptocurrency is something gangsters do, but no rookie gangsters want to use cryptocurrency, as you can track the money along the way. This money, he says, means the black market trade or undeclared business has disappeared.
– What is the size of the Norwegian Stock Exchange?
– It’s hard to say. Similar things in the United States have become gigantic, so it has all the possibilities. That’s the direction you’re going, and there’s no doubt that banknotes will disappear.
– But many people oppose it?
Yes, but this generation is dying. In 10 to 20 years, the banknotes will be gone. Then the older generation goes. Even people my age no longer use banknotes, says the 75-year-old.
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