South Africa is continuing its privatisation programme with the search for an international airport investor to kick off the sale of the country's state-owned airport-management company.

Minister of Transport Mac Maharaj says that plans have been agreed for the sale of an initial 49%of the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which runs the country's nine major airports.

The first step, due for completion by the end of March 1998, is to find an "internationally recognised airport operator" to take a 20%stake in the company, either on its own or leading a consortium. Another 9%of shares will be reserved for employees, with 20% to go to a range of empowerment groups, set up to encourage black economic ownership in post-apartheid South Africa.

The plan is then to move towards a public flotation within the next two years, at which time the airport partner will have the option to take a further 10%.

Maharaj adds that there is a debate about whether the Government should be in the position of owning the country's airports. "One position is that we should regulate, but not run them," he says.

The ASCA has turned its performance around over the past few years, ending the year to March 1997 with sales of R577.6 million ($124 million) and a net profit of R159 million.

South Africa's privatisation programme has already seen the sale of Sun Air and the first move towards the sale of South African Airways is due to take place in 1998 when the carrier is transformed into a standalone company.

Source: Flight International