JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s government plans to retain a minority shareholding in South African Airways, the national airline that has been in bankruptcy protection for the last six months, while ceding management control to its investors, an official said.
“We are not obsessed with control,” Kgathatso Tlhakudi, the deputy director-general at department of public enterprises, said in a radio interview today.
“If we find the right partner who is prepared to inject the technology and access to markets that we require for the airline, and they are assuming management control, we are quite comfortable to let go of that.”
With a smaller shareholding the government will protect certain strategic imperatives, while helping to improve management and governance measures required to ensure SAA’s future success, he said.
South Africa received proposals from private investors and potential airline partners interested in taking part in the restructuring of the national carrier. Creditors are due to vote on a rescue plan by administrators this week that proposes a bailout of at least R26.7 billion for the loss-making carrier.
That includes funds to pay lenders and to reduce the workforce by almost 80 percent to about 1000 people. The South African government hasn’t said explicitly whether it supports the proposals.
According to the plan, two parties were interested in becoming SAA strategic investment partners before the Covid-19 crisis all but grounded airlines worldwide, while a third had proposed an aviation alliance.
Ethiopian Airlines Group, Africa’s biggest carrier, said last month it is prepared to come to the rescue of stricken carriers around Africa, though chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at the time no negotiations had taken place with SAA.