Brown is eyeing Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad or Emirates
Government is likely to disband the boards of both SAA and SA Express, and reestablish a single board, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said this week.
“Is it necessary to have two airlines being flag bearers? We also have Mango and a small stake in SA Airlink,” she said.
This week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced changes to make stateowned enterprises more efficient.
Brown could not put a time limit on the changes at the national carrier, while Gordhan has said that they were imminent.
SAA has not tabled its financial results, which were due in September last year.
SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni is a close friend of President Jacob Zuma, and is regarded in political circles as untouchable.
Brown said an equity partner at SAA was a distinct possibility, although no talks had yet started – a stake could be as high as 26% or could be lower, depending on the carrier’s needs.
“I’ve always thought there should be a strategic partner,” she said.
Brown said she was looking with interest at Ethiopian Airlines, which is fast becoming the continent’s most successful carrier.
In addition, Etihad or Emirates, the hugely successful Gulf operators, were also interesting.
SAA has previously explored and abandoned code-sharing arrangements with both.
SAA sits in the awkward position of reporting to the department of public enterprises with a temporary line to the Treasury until it is stabilised.
For the rest of the state’s portfolio of more than 600 companies, privatisation is not likely at any significant scale, but private partners may be brought in to run parts of SA Inc.
South Africa’s ports would benefit from private-sector expertise or operators, said Brown, but she said security considerations ruled out similar arrangements in freight rail.
She added that Transnet’s board could benefit from financial and transport experts as it undertakes a massive infrastructure drive and capital raising expedition.
“I think we can strengthen the boards,” she said, but she added that, on the whole, the big parastatals like Eskom and Transnet had a good spread of expertise and talent.
“I am not unhappy with them at the moment.”
Government has extended R487 billion in guarantees against debts of the stateowned enterprises, notably Eskom and SAA.
– Ferial Haffajee