R603m Air­bus D-day for SAA

CityPress - - News - SU­SAN COM­RIE su­san.com­rie@city­press.co.za

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

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