Botswana’s largest tourism company, Wilderness Safaris, is planning to make an official offer to purchase the country’s national airline, Air Botswana, with the government looking to privatize the loss-making state-owned enterprise.
In February this year the Botswana government put the airline up for tender, publishing an expression of interest invitation in the media in order to attract interested parties who would like to bid, according to the Sunday Standard.
At the time the country’s transport department made it clear that it would consider standalone bids for Air Botswana, as well as joint ventures and other potential ownership options proposed to them.
Now it appears that the country’s largest tourism player is willing to make a bid, which could be an attractive proposition for government, as they are trying to privatize some of the 30 state-owned entities which have been making a loss in recent years.
Wilderness Safaris unveiled plans to bid for the airline after it published its full-year results last week, according to ENCA.
The company is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and operates 50 luxury resorts across eight African countries, while it also runs 35 small tourist aircrafts in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia through Wilderness Air, giving the company an appreciation for aviation.
Botswana’s transport minister Kitso Mokaila said earlier in the year that at least 17 companies had expressed an interest in operating Air Botswana once the privatization plans were proposed by government, according to BusinessLive.
Air Botswana currently operates four domestic routes while also providing cargo and passenger services to the South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg from Gaborone, Francistown and the tourism hubs of Maun and Kasane.
The airline’s has been consistently losing money in recent years, with these losses blamed on the large workforce employed in their operations and an ageing aircraft fleet, according to CNBCAfrica.
Previous cost-cutting measures have included stopping loss-making routes to Harare and Lusaka, but the airline continues to lose money in its operations, and an outright privatization plan seems increasingly likely.
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