SAA Sale Part of Vital Reforms, Minister Says

South Africa’s minister in charge of embattled state-owned companies gave an impassioned defense of the sale of a majority stake in the national carrier for about $3 — a deal that’s subject to a lawsuit from one of the spurned bidders, Bloomberg News reported. The privatisation of South African Airways (SAA) is a vital reform for the country’s battered economy, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, 73, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office. The winning bidder — a partnership between a domestic aviation group and private equity firm — was the one left with the most credible financial backing and industry experience, he said. The airline is an “example of a broken state-owned enterprise that has been loss making, that we have successfully re-positioned and got the private sector involved,” said Gordhan. Discussions with ratings companies suggest the move is “a classic example of reform.” The acquisition by the Takatso Consortium has been criticised in some quarters for the notional purchase price, lack of transparency around the sale and an ongoing government requirement to settle debts. The group is made up of Global Airways, which owns domestic airline Lift, and private-equity firm Harith General Partners. The backlash culminated in a lawsuit filed last month by Toto Investment Holdings Pty, which founder Bongani Gigaba said was unfairly excluded from the sale process. Yet the airline had been a drain on government finances for a decade, receiving numerous state bailouts before entering bankruptcy proceedings in 2019. Read more.