Thursday, August 15, 2013

► ZIMBABWE: PAKAfrica Aviation to use 1time buy out, stake in CATS to establish hub out of Harare.

1TimeSouth Africa-based PAKAfrica Aviation has reportedly acquired a 49% stake in Zimbabwe's Central Air Transport Services (ZO) and intends to use the acquisition, in conjunction with a proposed ZAR15million (USD1.5million) buy out of defunct South African LCC, 1time (T6), to establish a regional hub out of Harare. 

According to BusinessDay, the Pakistani group said its offer of ZAR15million for the listed holding company had been agreed to "in principle" by 1time's board and 60% of its shareholders. PAK's business plan has now been submitted to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) for consideration. The group had initially wanted to buy what remained of 1time, but with more than ZAR450million in debt and an outdated fleet, the idea was abandoned.

1Time has a history of partnership with Zimbabweans. Last year, Zimbabwean LCC, Fresh Air (Z7), a 49/51 venture between 1Time and Nu-Aero Zimbabwe, had the unfortunate luck of launching operations between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg on the exact day that 1Time ceased operations.

PAK now plans to revive 1time and want to set up an intra-regional hub out of Harare, in partnership with Oscar Madombwe, a pilot and former acting CEO of Air Zimbabwe, who owns 51% of CATS. Central Air Transport Services was at one time based out of Harare Charles Prince Airport and specialized in safari charter operations and flights from Harare to Vilankulo, Mozambique using Cessna 208B Grand Caravans, Piper Navajos and single prop Cessnas.

Most interestingly, CATS is said to have secured rights to various lucrative domestic, regional and international routes, usually the preserve of state-backed national carrier, Air Zimbabwe (UM).

Domestically, CATS is said to have rights for Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Beitbridge, Chiredzi and Masvingo. Surprisingly Mutare, too, is mentioned though owing to the precarious positioning of the airfield, no scheduled flights have operated there since colonial times. Regional and longhaul rights include Johannesburg, Luanda, Lusaka, Lilongwe, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Maputo, London and Frankfurt.
"A study is being done now to decide which routes to develop once we have successfully launched Johannesburg to Harare," Ms Qadir said. The group had 28 slots per month and would negotiate for more slots as the need arose.
In July, another Zimbabwean startup, Flywell Airlines which operated as Zimbabwe Airlink and was at one stage, a 51/49 venture with SA Airlink, claimed it had been "battling to obtain slots on the Harare - Johannesburg milkrun" despite "having satisfied all Zimbabwean government requirements". Headed by Forbes Magadu, the airline claims Zimbabwe's Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development instead gave them the rights to Harare - Beira and Maputo which Mr Magadu dismissed as unviable.
We have two Embraer jets and capital to start business now and I have tried in vain to get approval on the routes. The ministry gave us Beira and Maputo which are not viable at all from Harare,” he said. 
Zimbabwe's Acting Secretary for Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Mr Valentine Sinemani dismissed the accusations saying that local operators should be "creative and innovative" as the Harare - Johannesburg route was not the only lucrative route available.