(Adds detail, government comments)
STOCKHOLM, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Sweden and Norway said on Thursday they had sold 23 million shares in SAS in a first step toward the governments exiting their long-standing holdings in the Scandinavian airline.
* The shares sold at 15.5 Swedish crowns per share. SAS shares traded at 15.6 crowns by 0832, down 4.9 percent from Wednesday’s closing price of 16.4 crowns.
* Sweden sold 13.8 million or 4.2 percent of SAS shares for 214 million Swedish crowns ($24.8 million) to institutional investors. Norway sold 9.2 million or 2.7 percent of shares for 143 million Swedish crowns.
* Sweden remains SAS’ biggest owner following the sale with a 17.2 percent stake while Norway holds 11.5 percent.
* Norway’s and Sweden’s industry ministers said in separate statements they would take into consideration market developments and SAS’ situation ahead of any potential future sale.
* Swedish industry minister Mikael Damberg said: “The Swedish state shouldn’t be a long-term owner in a listed airline and the government sees that a changed ownership will strengthen SAS.”
* SAS, hit by competition from budget carriers such as Norwegian and Ryanair, has long been seen as a potential takeover candidate. Sources told Reuters in April Lufthansa was considering a partnership with, or buying a stake in SAS.
* The Danish government said separately on Thursday it currently had no plans to sell its 14.3 percent stake in SAS.
* Sweden and Norway have agreed a 180-day’ lock-up period during which they will not sell further shares in SAS.
* Sweden said it would use proceeds to pay down government debt while Norway said proceeds would be transferred to the central bank.
* Sweden, Norway and Denmark had owned roughly 50 pct of SAS since its creation in 1946.
$1 = 8.6231 Swedish crowns Reporting by Stockholm and Oslo newsrooms, writing by Anna Ringstrom; editing by Niklas Pollard