Carol Paton Writer at Large
A man cycles past aircraft in the SAA fleet parked at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
A man cycles past aircraft in the SAA fleet parked at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

South African Airways (SAA) has stated categorically that it has not yet held talks with any foreign airline with a view to selling a stake in the state-owned company.

A report at the weekend in City Press newspaper quoted the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to SA, Mahash al Hameli, saying that his government was considering investing in SA’s state-owned companies, in particular in SAA, which has said it was seeking an investor. The UAE has two state-owned airlines: Emirates and Etihad.

In a statement issued on Monday, SAA said that it had recently met airlines with which it had code-sharing agreements, as well as potential commercial partners.

“SAA has met Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Mauritius, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines. These discussions have been purely about commercial agreements such as interline, codeshare, cargo as well as possibilities of these airlines taking some of our excess flight deck and cabin crew staff.

“We have not discussed any possibility of them investing in SAA as part of strategic equity partner process,” it said.

SAA chief Vuyani Jarana said earlier in July that the airline was in an urgent bid to find a buyer for a stake in the company, as a way of dealing with its liquidity and solvency problems.

In a statement on Monday, Emirates also confirmed that it had not engaged in any talks with SAA.

In 2015, a R2bn equity deal between Emirates and SAA was scuppered when the SAA chair at the time, Dudu Myeni, intervened in the transaction, ordering then acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout to return home from Paris immediately and not to sign the deal.

SAA needs to raise R21.7bn over the next three years to turn the company around and make it profitable, according to the airline’s turnaround plan. That amount would be a mixture of equity — either from the government or a new investor — and debt.