BIDVEST’S “OTHER DEAL” WITH COMAIR
LISTED INDUSTRIAL GROUP Bidvest is positioning itself as a leading provider of South African airport services as passenger and aircraft volumes show continued signs of strong growth ahead of 2010. Following news last month that Bidvest has taken a 20% stake in listed domestic airline Comair, it’s also emerged that the group has bought a controlling stake in the airline’s loss-making ramp handling service, Commuter Handling Services (CHS).
The acquisition is disclosed in the Bidvest annual report, but not mentioned in the Comair financial statements. It’s unclear what Bidvest paid for the asset. CHS, until last year a subsidiary of Comair, has been providing services to the airline at cost. The group’s 2006 annual report disclosed the division lost R189 422 last year, more than 200% more than the R62 268 loss recorded in 2005.
Bidvest already provides a range of services at the country’s big airports, including aircraft cleaning and cargo services, as well as the upmarket The Premier Club lounges.
Its growing interest in the air transport sector follows its partnership with Indian infrastructure group GVK and Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) to modernise, operate and manage Mumbai International Airport.
Bidvest has previously declined to discuss the strategic intentions behind its Comair deals, but a study of the annual report reveals it launched a new division, Bidair Services, during 2006. It says in the report that it will provide aircraft cleaning as well as cargo and passenger handling services.
It makes no mention of in-flight catering, but with just three companies – German-owned LSG, SAA-owned Airchefs and First Catering – providing on-board meal services to a growing number of airlines using South Africa’s main airports, speculation is rife that Bidvest, which has extensive food-service interests, may also consider entering that market.