SAA to meet Togo's ASKY over possible equity stake

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South African Airways (SAA) is to meet with the management of ASKY Airlines to discuss the possibility of taking an equity stake in the Togolese carrier.

The Johannesburg-based carrier says it will “soon meet” with both ASKY and Ethiopian Airlines, which already holds a 40% stake, in order to discuss a possibility of investing in the carrier as part of a new strategic drive of establishing a new hub in west Africa to aid its financial turnaround plan.

“As part of the implementation of our new long-term strategy, the airline is exploring a possibility of establishing a hub in west Africa,” SAA states, adding: “As part of our feasibility study and the investigation we are conducting, we will soon meet with the authorities from ASKY and Ethiopian Airlines.”

The struggling South African flag-carrier cautions that it has made no commitments at this stage and emphasises that it is mindful of its “own financial position at the moment”.

SAA previously stated it was interesting in investing in Senegal Airlines and was approached by the Senegalese government over a proposed equity swap in January.

But it says it “came to the conclusion that it was not a commercially viable option", and adds: "We are now focusing on Ghana as we fly to Accra.”

The Johannesburg-based carrier made a pre-tax loss of R1.2 billion ($107 million) in its financial year 2012-13, and is in the process of implementing a restructuring programme under which it is cutting its international network and merging with subsidiaries Mango and SA Express to reduce costs.

ASKY is already part of Ethiopian’s own hub operation, feeding flights from west Africa into Ethiopian's main base of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Airlines was unavailable for comment.