Monday, April 22, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): Government proceeds with setting up of new national carrier as concerns arise over LAC's liquidation.

LAC Congo logoCongolese Minister of Transport and Communication, Justin Kalumba, has said previously announced plans for the setting up of a new national carrier to replace LAC - Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (4V), now in liquidation, are at an advanced stage, though there are concerns as to the fate of LAC's property, equipment and staff, who had been promised a renewed future once a new airline was established.

LAC's sole B737-200Adv (swag)
Speaking in Kinshasa during a Senate Q&A session on the draft ratification of new international conventions due to be implemented across the board in the DRC, Mr Kalumba said the talks with several undisclosed "major international" airlines were underway with the ultimate goal of establishing a well-run, transparent carrier capable of sustaining itself in the long term, but that LAC's liquidation still proved to be a headache given the absence of recruiting consultant. 

 This is the second such proposal by the Congolese government as in 1997, with the ouster of Mobutu and the collapse of Air Zaïre (QC), Sabena (SN) entered into a partnership with the Zairean government to create a new airline to be called "New Air Zaïre". Sabena, which was partnered with Swissair (SR) and South African investors, and was initially offered a controlling 51% stake, purchased a 49.5% stake for a reported BFR100million with the Zairean government to have held the controlling 50.5% stake. The new airline would have operated domestic services, whilst Sabena would utilise its traffic rights and operate international flights, though in the end, nothing ever came to bear. Air Zaire was thus reorganised into LAC, which began flights in 1997.

With a work force of more than 1'000 but with only one aircraft, a Boeing 737-200Adv (MSN 22071 | 9Q-CLG) currently in storage in Perpignan, France, it is claimed that overall liquidation of LAC would cost the Congolese government USD115million in wage claims backdated to almost 9 years to 2002/2003 when the airline last operated scheduled flights.

Further fears have arisen over the fate of LAC's MRO facility at Kinshasa Ndjili and its associated headquarters in Kinshasa, built at great expense by the Congolese Government (largely during Mobutu Sese Seko's rule)  which could seized and sold for a song by creditors owed outstanding debts.