Business Maverick

Business Maverick

SA Hires RMB to Advise on Possible Airline Stake Sale

A South African Airlines Airbus A320 takes off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank, the investment banking arm of FirstRand Ltd., has been appointed as an adviser to help the government assess offers for stakes in its insolvent national airline, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The state is looking to raise more than 10 billion rand ($575 million) that South African Airways administrators say is needed to revive its operations eight months after going into bankruptcy protection. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has said the National Treasury will not use its own money, beyond 16.4 billion rand in existing debt guarantees, and will instead seek “strategic partners” or private-equity backers as well as tapping pension funds and global financial institutions.

“The Department of Public Enterprises has identified a transaction adviser,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, without identifying the firm. “The advisers are expected to assess unsolicited expressions of interest from private-sector funders, private-equity investors and partners for a future restructured SAA.”

The people who identified RMB as the adviser asked not to be identified as they aren’t authorized to disclose the information publicly. A representative of RMB declined to comment. The Department of Public Enterprises will release more information on the transaction adviser in due course, spokesman Sam Mkokeli said by phone.

SAA hasn’t made a profit for almost a decade and has been surviving on state bailouts. It was placed in business rescue, a local form of bankruptcy protection, in December. With South Africa facing its biggest economic contraction in almost 90 years Mboweni has said he is loath to spend more money on loss-making state companies.

RMB will work with Morgan Stanley on the contract as part of its cooperation agreement with the U.S. company, one of the people said.


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