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SA Express to acquire batch of Flybe Q400s

South African carrier SA Express is to acquire three of regional carrier Flybe's Bombardier Q400 turboprops, part of a batch of aircraft of which the UK operator is trying to dispose.

Flybe is to sell the Q400s to South Africa's Rand Merchant Bank, based in Johannesburg, which will then lease them to the South African regional airline.

The UK operator said the aircraft were sold above book value and will provide "a modest profit".

Flybe previously stated that it was discussing the sale of seven Q400s. The carrier is "in negotiations" for sale of the other four, but has not identified a prospective buyer.

It added that it plans to dispose of nine aircraft from its fleet - either through sale or return from lease - over the financial year 2011-12.

SA Express is to receive aircraft that Flybe purchased from Bombardier in 2007.

Flybe has been looking at expanding through acquisition - it recently agreed to take over Finnish Commuter Airlines jointly with Finnair - which reduces its need for deploying its own excess fleet capacity.

"The disposal [to South Africa] is part of our continuing process to adjust our fleet capacity in order to balance organic growth and demand across the group as a whole," said Flybe chief Jim French.

SA Express already operates Q400s as well as Bombardier CRJ jets.

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