Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Three bidders eye Air Botswana

Three companies bid for the national carrier, Air Botswana, in the second attempt in three years aimed at the privatization of the airline.

According to tender documents opened on Wednesday by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), the bidders were Lobtrans (Ltd), a Botswana truck fuel transporter, South African Air Link, a closely held Johannesburg-based airline, and African World Airways Ltd. Tender amounts weren’t disclosed.

Botswana short-listed eight companies to bid for the airline, the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency said July 20. The deadline for bids was Wednesday.

The tiny southern African airline has attempted to privatize before but only the last two short-listed companies, Air Mauritius and ComAir, pulled-out at a time when they were to do the verification of its assets.

The airline, which owns four planes and has a pent-house head office near Sir Seretse Khama International airport, became a leading candidate of privatization after it was turned around by the then chief executive officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, following successive years of losses.

His plans involved savage cost cutting measures including retrenchments, farming out some routes, canceling some unprofitable routes and leasing one plane to Zimbabwe.

Presently, part of Air Botswana’s nagging problem steams from its inability to attract big volumes of passengers and its failure to develop its cargo division. The passenger division is made difficult by a multiple of taxes, which are meted by government through the Department of Civil Aviation.

Botswana government, which is not under pressure from international financial institutions is embarking on the privatization of its assets in a bid to improve their efficiency.

Air Botswana operates four southern African and three domestic routes, carrying 150,000 passengers a year, 38 percent of total air travelers in Botswana, according to its website.

The government plans to sell the airline before the end of the year. It hasn’t said how much of the airline is being sold.

The short-listed companies, who didn’t submit bids, were Ethiopian Airlines, Comair Ltd., a South African carrier, Tourism Empowerment Group, a South African tourism company, ExecuJet Aviation Group, a Zurich-based air charter company, and Interair South Africa, a closely held carrier.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.