UPDATE 1-Norwegian Air quarterly loss worse than expected

Wed May 7, 2014 3:18am EDT

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OSLO, May 7 (Reuters) - Norwegian Air Shuttle, Europe's third-biggest budget airline, reported a worse than expected first-quarter loss on Wednesday as a weak Norwegian crown, flight delays and intense competition in its domestic market hit the company hard.

Norwegian Air, which has been expanding rapidly to new bases in Europe, Asia and the United States, said the loss came despite growth in passenger traffic and nearly full planes.

"It has been a hard quarter for us," Norwegian Air's CEO Bjoern Kjos told an analyst conference on Wednesday.

Its pre-tax loss widened to 813 million crowns ($137.44 million) in the quarter from 160 million crowns a year earlier, lagging expectations for a 706 million crown loss.

Norwegian shares were down 0.41 percent at 0705 GMT, slightly lagging an Oslo benchmark index down 0.31 percent.

Once among the top stocks in Oslo, Norwegian shares have fallen by almost a fifth in the past year as it pays the price of rapid expansion, stiffening competition and the weaker crown.

The company, which has over 200 jets on order with Boeing and Airbus, has also faced a challenge to its reputation after several high profile breakdowns of its new long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Norwegian Air is Europe's third-largest budget airline by passenger numbers after Ryanair and EasyJet. (Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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