Friday, September 6, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): Government set to form new national carrier with Air France; ops by early 2014.

DRCThe Democratic Republic of Congo has reportedly chosen Air France (AF) as its strategic partner in its planned new national carrier to replace the defunct LAC Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (4V) following months of speculation.

http://i.imgur.com/eFMl82o.jpgAccording to Bloomberg, the Congolese Prime Minister's office, Matata Ponyo, announced a tentative launch date of late December 2013/ early January 2014. Mr Ponyo, on Wednesday, held talks with Franck Legré, the head of Air France's African operations, regarding the creation of the carrier, adding that he hopes the French will expedite their involvement in Congo's domestic market "as quickly as possible."

The Congolese had planned to have the airline up and running by June and had approached various carriers - brussels airlines, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, and Kenya Airways - regarding a possible joint venture.

Should the deal in fact go through, it would be Air France/KLM's second stakeholding in an African carrier after its 20% stake in Air Cote d'Ivoire (HF) and its 26.73% shareholding in Kenya Airways (KQ).

Curiously, Air France is also in protracted talks to become a 34% stakeholder in Air CEMAC, the regional carrier aimed at linking Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and São Tomé & Príncipe.

Air CEMAC's hub is set to be Brazzaville Maya-Maya International Airport, literally just over the Congo River, though the status of the airline (set to launch before year end - allegedly) and Air France's shareholding, are still in limbo. The Republic of Congo's Minister for Civil Aviation & Transport, Rodolphe Adada, was due to have held talks in Paris with the French to finalize the "contentious" modalities of the deal in late July. However, no mention of any outcome has been heard of since then leading to some doubts over the project's future.