Kenya Airways, SAA Plan Investor Search for Pan-African Carrier

Kenya Airways, SAA Plan Investor Search for Pan-African Carrier

Kenya Airways Plc and South African Airways are planning a series of investor roadshows to help find a financial backer for a combined airline group they aim to create next year.

The campaign to attract a majority investor for a holding company to be modeled on British Airways and Iberia owner IAG SA is likely to start before the end of the northern-hemisphere summer, Kenya Airways Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said in an interview on Thursday. Events will be staged in Africa, London and the U.S.

The governments of Kenya and South Africa plan to take a minority stake in the venture, which has the working name Pan-African Airline Group, Kilavuka said. The carriers are also seeking to recruit a third member from West Africa, most likely in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal, he said.

“There has been cooperation in the past but only short-term steps like interlining,” the CEO said at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit in northwest England. “What we are talking about now is very different. African aviation is so fragmented with 200 or 300 airlines, but only a handful are viable and even they are not very strong.”

The push to create an enlarged airline out of sub-Saharan Africa’s second- and third-biggest carriers — they trail Ethiopian Airlines Group — began last year with a government-level accord followed by an agreement on a strategic framework for the company. Kilavuka said the focus is on securing backing from a financial institution rather than an industry partner like a Gulf carrier, as that might compromise plans to split long-haul flights between their respective hubs. Different Hubs

According to one scenario, SAA’s Johannesburg base would be a focus for southern-hemisphere operations, such as flights to Sydney, while operations to Asia would go through Nairobi. The hubs would be able to maintain some competing flights, and cities such as London would get services from both.

A spokeswoman for SAA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Richard Mantu, a spokesman for South Africa’s Ministry of Public Enterprises, didn’t immediately send comment.

Kilavuka said that Kenya Airways needs to complete a restructuring before the new venture can proceed, though a round of cost cuts should be done by June. The government, as the biggest shareholder, is supporting the process but requires the carrier to reduce its network, fleet size and workforce, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said in his budget speech Thursday. Close […]

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