By Victor Shalton
South African Airways Lands New Majority Equity Investment from Takatso Consortium
The process of revamping South Africa’s national carrier South African Airways is beginning to take shape with the announcement of a new strategic equity partner during an online media briefing held June 11 by the Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan named the Takatso Consortium as the preferred new majority shareholder for the struggling airline.
Takatso — which means “aspire” in Setswana, is comprised of two entities. Harith General Partners – a leading investor in African infrastructure and airports including Lanseria International Airport – together with aviation group Global Aviation – which also owns the recently launched Lift Airlines – will take up to 51% stake on the national airline with the government retaining the remaining 49% share.
The announcement comes after approval from the South African Cabinet on June 9, following a year-long process undertaken by Gordhan’s Department of Public Enterprises to find a suitable strategic equity partner for South African Airways.
“The government and the ANC indicated over some time the intention to restructure [South African Airways]. The airline was placed into business rescue in December 2019 and since then our objective has been to ensure a viable and competitive airline and once launched, not reliant on the [investment],” said Gordhan during a briefing.
The consortium will inject over $221 million into the new airline and raise further capital as needed with the government taking a back seat on providing any further funding. It will, however, take care of South African Airways’ historical debt of $1 billion.
The government will also maintain a non-dilutable “golden share” of 33% on the new entity’s voting rights to protect certain areas of national interest such as ensuring that it remained domiciled in South Africa and will achieve national transformation goals, local outlet News24 reported.
The intention is to list the airline in the future as one way of addressing funding requirements and to enable all South Africans to take part in its success. The partnership between the consortium and the South African government also aims at building an iconic national brand and a sustainable, world-class pan-African airline.
Harith co-founder and consortium chair Tshepo Mahloele said the consortium has the experience, expertise and capital to transform South African Airways into a substantial operating business in its own right.
“The partnership represents a robust, exciting South African-bred solution,” he said in a statement. “Harith, as owners of Lanseria International Airport, has significant experience in the transport infrastructure and aviation sectors. We have deployed more than a billion dollars into a portfolio of critical infrastructure assets across the African continent that support regional economies.”
Takatso CEO, former Comair Co-CEO and recently co-founder of Global’s airline LIFT Gidon Novick said he was confident that the airline could be built into an efficient, customer-focused and innovative airline that serves as a catalyst for growth in the South African economy, particularly in the field of tourism.
“[Covid-19] has created a unique set of circumstances for the industry. There are incredible skills and talent available right here in South Africa as well as an abundance of low-priced aircraft available globally-both critical ingredients for a successful airline. Transformation will be core to SAA, including accelerated training and promotion of qualified black pilots and a broad-based employee incentive scheme,” he said. “Global’s operating model is unique, highly efficient and fit for purpose for a newly launched airline. The Consortium has empowerment at its heart and a unique blend of skills and experience.”
According to the consortium’s press release, due diligence exercises are currently underway, and once completed, further details will be outlined on key issues such as the route network rollout, fleet selection, leadership team, transformation, brand relaunch, technology, South African Airways’ subsidiaries, global partnerships and Voyager.