R603m Airbus D-day for SAA
The SAA Airbus deal is down to the wire, with R603 million due tomorrow unless Treasury and SAA can reach an agreement on the controversial contract.
The Airbus deal is the first major test for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan since he was parachuted back into Treasury last week.
But with the clock ticking, there is still no sign of a decision.
“The minister is in discussion with SAA chairperson [Dudu Myeni] and the directorgeneral has met SAA officials,” said SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali on Friday.
“A full statement will be issued on or around December 21 once all the discussions on all the immediate matters have been concluded.”
This was echoed by Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda, while Airbus’ Southern Africa spokesperson Linden Birns said: “Airbus does not discuss unfinalised business.”
The Airbus deal, which was struck in 2002 and renegotiated in 2009, requires SAA to make predelivery payments of $40 million (R603 million) on new Airbus aircraft by tomorrow.
SAA would have been relieved of this obligation under the “swap transaction” negotiated by Treasury during former minister Nhlanhla Nene’s tenure.
But after the SAA board failed to ratify the deal, and Myeni proposed a new structure, SAA was once again liable for the $40 million.
Nene’s axing is widely believed to be connected to the Airbus deal – a claim the presidency denies – after he rejected Myeni’s proposal and issued a stern instruction to SAA to go ahead with the “swap transaction”.
On Monday, Gordhan promised to “stabilise SAA”, and said he would call Myeni within 24 hours as one of his first orders of business.
Although Gordhan is expected to stick to the same deal, SAA’s board must still sign the deal.
“The ball is in the court of the airline,” a source close to the negotiations told City Press. “Everyone is waiting to see what happens over the weekend … The window of opportunity is about to close.”
The original Airbus deal was struck in 2002