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Home » News » General » Wilderness withdraws interest in Air Botswana

Wilderness withdraws interest in Air Botswana

Publishing Date : 12 June, 2017

Author : AUBREY LUTE

Wilderness Safaris has withdrawn its Expression of Interest on Air Botswana. This follows Government decision to invite interested companies to bid to operate the faltering Airline. Wilderness decision comes on the wake of a barrage of criticism on government as Batswana question the alleged sale of public enterprises.


“In the announcement of the results of the Company for the year ended 28 February 2017, issued on 31 May 2017, it was confirmed that the Company had in February 2017 submitted an Expression of Interest in the privatisation of Air Botswana but that there had been no further progress in the matter,” reads a statement from Wilderness Safaris.


The statement further indicates that the Company was informed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications that the Government of Botswana wishes to enter into discussions with the Company regarding privatization of Air Botswana. However, after careful deliberation, the Company has decided to not pursue the matter any further. Accordingly, the Company has withdrawn its Expression of Interest and has advised the Government of its decision,” the statement reads.

PAC HAD WARNED PS

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week piled more pressure on Kitso Mokaila’s Ministry of Transport and Communications demanding answers on the reported Air Botswana privatization. They had asked the number of companies that had expressed interest, they were told it is only two – Wilderness Safaris and a South African company.


The PAC members wanted to understand how the bidding process was conducted and they could not get convincing answers as the accounting officer was new to the position. The understanding is that some of the piercing questions at PAC put pressure on Wilderness and Cabinet to withdraw the interest. PAC members have made it clear to a number of accounting officers that some of their requests will not pass in Parliament regardless of their convenient relations with Cabinet.


CABINET SIDELINED BOARD

Wilderness, a Company whose primary listing is on the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing is on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, had been linked to the takeover of Air Botswana for a while. The decision by Wilderness Safaris means that government will have to consider other bidders.


Some companies that had shown interest in buying Air Botswana when the deal was still being handled by the Board of Air Botswana pulled out after discovering that they will be compelled to retain the name of the Airline, the colours, and to a larger extent the staff that currently operates Air Botswana. Indications are that some companies were interested as long as they do as they please to make the Airline look attractive and become economically viable. Air Botswana is currently making huge losses and has an aging fleet.


At the time of considering Wilderness, Cabinet had taken over the process of privatizing Air Botswana and was running the risk of being accused of sidelining the Board. The Air Botswana Board had at some stage been informed that there was a likelihood of Air Botswana being moved to the Ministry of Tourism because 70 percent of the customers who use Air Botswana are tourists. It is not clear as to what will happen next at Air Botswana following the withdrawal of Wilderness Safaris.

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