At least 29 airport operators from Europe, North America and Asia have expressed an interest in the privatisation of South Africa's nine state-owned airports.

According to the Department of Transport's advisers, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, the government initially plans to sell 49 percent of the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), 20 percent of which will go to a strategic equity partner. A further 10 percent will be offered to local empowerment investors, with 9 percent earmarked for the company's employees and 10 percent for the National Empowerment Fund which holds shares in privatised companies on behalf of 'historically disadvantaged persons'. The government will sell its remaining shares through a public offering in about two years' time.

The strategic partner will have the option of acquiring a further 10 percent at the time of the IPO and would have to be an internationally recognised airport operator. The partner will be expected to assist ACSA to develop its operational expertise and non-aeronautical businesses and enhance ACSA's profitability and value ahead of the public offering. After a prequalifying round, a competitive tender will be held to select the successful partner by 31 March next year.

ACSA owns and operates the three gateway airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban as well as others in Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, George, East London, Bloemfontein and Upington.

In the financial year to 31 March 1997 the company made a net profit of R159 million (US$33.1 million) on revenues of R578 million. It handled over 16 million passengers in 1996/7.

Roger Makings

Source: Airline Business