The man be­hind Co­mair

Finweek English Edition - - SPOTLIGHT -

This is a man who does not like to sit still. Con­tin­u­ally on the go, he nonethe­less prefers the term ‘ pro­duc­ta­holic’ to ‘worka­holic’.

Fa­ther to two girls, one in pri­mary the other in high school, Ven­ter re­flects on his school days. School back then was not as pres­sured as it is to­day, he says. “You kind of went to school, en­joyed your­self and didn’t worry that much about the fu­ture,” chuck­les Ven­ter. Grow­ing up in Som­er­set West, he went on to study a BCom (CA) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town.

Like most boys, he was in­ter­ested in air­craft but didn’t con­sider mov­ing into avi­a­tion. Get­ting into the in­dus­try − which his fa­ther un­wit­tingly had a hand in − was “a lucky for­tune”, he says.

Ven­ter is a man who does not count sport among his pas­sions. He is more into hands-on stuff like restor­ing cars and build­ing fur­ni­ture, en­joy­ing the sweat eq­uity put in by cre­at­ing things with his hands. Hav­ing re­stored a Porsche 928 by build­ing a com­pletely new body, Ven­ter is cur­rently restor­ing the iconic pony car, a 1967 Mus­tang.

“I also re­store mo­tor­bikes or what­ever else I can get my hands on,” he says. In-be­tween restor­ing cars, he tries to make time for fur­ni­ture build­ing. You would think there might be a wood­work­ing back­ground. But no, merely the de­sire to build some­thing. “It started with a cof­fee ta­ble, then side­board and Gibson chairs and has evolved from there.” they should eas­ily stay in ser­vice for 15 to 20 years. The benefits of own­er­ship in­crease over time if you are go­ing to be op­er­at­ing an air­craft for that long.”

But op­er­a­tors need to be cash f lush to buy air­craft. “You have to put down a min­i­mum of 15% of the air­craft’s value in cash, and on a $50m plane you are talk­ing big amounts. Then you have to gen­er­ate enough cash just to fund the pur­chase and re­pay the cap­i­tal. We couldn’t own our en­tire f leet; we just don’t have that kind of bal­ance sheet, but we are cer­tainly push­ing to own as much as we can,” he says.

It’s not that diff icult to see why. Be­sides resid­ual value, air­craft are a nat­u­ral hedge be­cause they are val­ued in dol­lars. Own­ing also al­lows the f lex­i­bil­ity of sell­ing, up­grad­ing or leas­ing out the air­craft.

“The on­go­ing up­grades to our f leet re­main the best so­lu­tion to the ex­pected re­cov­ery in the fuel price, while also pro­vid­ing an i mproved cus­tomer propo­si­tion, and along with im­proved, tech­nol­ogy-driven op­er­at­ing pro­cesses, will en­sure that we main­tain a healthy lead over our com­peti­tors,” says Ven­ter.

An­cil­lary ser­vices that in­cludes travel busi­ness, f light train­ing, cater­ing, air­port lounges and travel in­sur­ance, rep­re­sented around 5% of rev­enue, more than dou­bling the 2% posted last year. It’s an area that Ven­ter be­lieves will keep grow­ing quite rapidly.

The f lex­i­bil­ity and quick think­ing that Ven­ter at­tributes to the com­pany’s on­go­ing suc­cess will prob­a­bly stand the busi­ness in good stead in the up­com­ing pe­riod. Com­pany per­for­mance rests on a num­ber of fac­tors out­side of its con­trol, mostly in the shape of the oil price and the ex­change rate, and new com­peti­tors en­ter­ing the mar­ket will also im­pact rev­enue. Pas­sen­ger vol­umes too are un­likely to in­crease in the near term.

“It’s a very volatile sit­u­a­tion. There are many vari­ables in the next si x months and it is very hard to pre­dict where it will all end up,” concludes Ven­ter.

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