SOLENTA AVIATION TAKES 28 PERCENT STAKE IN FASTJET
(Posted 06th January 2017)
There is renewed hope for Fastjet, Tanzania’s and Zimbabwe’s low cost airline with continental aspirations, that 2017 will finally see a major financial turnaround.
Solenta Aviation of South Africa has given notice of its intention to acquire a 28 percent stake in the airline, worth nearly 20 million US Dollars and pen should be put to paper before the end of the month according to usually reliable information received. A shareholder meeting of Fastjet has been scheduled for the day prior to the official signing of the deal and is expected to be approved.
Fastjet had late last year announced that another cash call would need to be made to shareholders to boost liquidity but there is not indication at present that this may now be shelved or otherwise seen through.
A planned fleet exchange from the expensive Airbus A319 to the leaner and more efficient – and more suitable on many routes – Embraer E190 ran into problems with regulators soon after the announcement had been made, insisting on having the airline’s AOC – short for Air Operator Certificate – amended, leaving the airline short of planes after the only owned A319 had been sold and others returned to the lessors upon expiry of the leases.
Air Bulgaria was to provide an initial three E190’s on a wetlease but only one of those did in the end join operations.
Solenta is according to the still sketchy details due to supply several aircraft on a five year lease to Fastjet as part of the share acquisition. This, and other services like maintenance and training. Notably does the Solenta fleet of 35 at present not include Fastjjet CEO’s Nico Bezuidenhout’s wishlist aircraft, the Embraer E190 but has the Embraers’ ERJ135 and ERF145 available, as are ATR 42’s and 72’s, the latter in a 70 seat -600 version.
However, Solenta is reportedly in exploratory talks with Embraer to acquire the larger E190’s for the Fastjet deal.
There has also been immediate speculation if the deal could include Fastjet spreading their wings into the South African market, something Nico Bezuidenhout has already suggested would be an early objective to expand operations into the arguably largest domestic aviation market in Africa.
Solenta holds an AOC in South Africa and several other African countries notably in Kenya where Fastjet has been trying to set up operations but also in Mozambique and the Ivory Coast.
Solenta could conceivably take on the Fastjet brand to expand their South African and Kenyan operations, the potential of which will excite aviation pundits across Africa. So for 2017, as in previous years, keep watching this space for breaking news and regular aviation updates from across the wider Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.