Regional carrier South African Express Airways (SAX) is to restructure its aircraft financing and route network following an ownership change. Transport parastatal Transnet recently bought the 23.99% of SAX it did not already own from its black empowerment partner Thebe Investments, in order to consolidate its aviation portfolio. Transnet also owns 75% of South African Airways (SAA), which in turn owns 10% of SA Airlink.

Transnet intends to fix balance sheet problems at SAX by addressing its high aircraft ownership costs resulting from $-based financing of 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200s and alter its route network in line with SAA's regional expansion, says Transnet executive director, Bheki Sibiya.

Persistent rumours about a possible merger with SA Airlink are unfounded, he says. Long-term fleet plans at SA Airlink, however, raise questions about SAX's position within the SAA/SAX/SA Airlink feeder alliance, which dominates 70% of the domestic market.

The holding company has no immediate plans to increase its shareholding in SA Airlink, but adds: "If an opportunity arises, we will look at it."

Source: Flight International