Lonrho to set up regional carrier in Zimbabwe

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Investment firm Lonrho is to establish a regional carrier in Zimbabwe to extend its Fly540 airline network further across Africa.

Branded as Fly540 Zimbabwe, the carrier will be founded on Zimbabwean company Sol Air, 90% of which has been acquired by local Lonrho affiliate LonZim fo $200,000.

Flights are scheduled to start from September this year. The carrier will operate domestic services from Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, as well as international connections to Lubumbashi, Lilongwe, Lusaka and Beira.

Lonrho says the domestic and regional market is "underserved" in the country, which is struggling to recover from the collapse of its economy.

"For Zimbabwe to rebuild its economic base and attract investment it is essential that it has a first world transport capability," says Lonrho.

The carrier has secured its air services licence and is making final operational arrangements.

It will start with an ATR 42 turboprop from Lonrho's fleet, acquiring it for $4.3 million, and invest $2 million to cover start-up costs. Fly540 Zimbabwe will also have $3.9 million in working capital for the first year.

LonZim executive chairman David Lenigas says: "Not only does it make sound commercial logic, but it is an important step forward for Zimbabwe and helps stimulate economic recovery."

Lonrho's wholly-owned Fly540 Africa subsidiary will receive licence and managerial fees from the Zimbabwean flight operation.