Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

London/Johannesburg — SA has identified three equity partners for bankrupt SAA and will make a decision on which one to pick in “the next month or so”, according to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.

The interim SAA board is engaging with the candidates before the government makes its recommendation, the minister said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Friday.

He also expects Eskom’s R464bn of debt to become “a thing of the past” in the next three to five years.

The search for a private-sector entity to help steer SAA to safety is key to the minister’s plan to revive the state-owned airline, which has been in business rescue for more than a year and hasn’t flown commercially since March. The carrier is also in a legal dispute with unions over wage settlements to workers, while demand for air travel has slowed to a trickle amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eskom is regarded as the biggest liability among state-owned entities, due to its financial situation and frequent need to trigger rolling blackouts. On Thursday, in his state of the national address (Sona), President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted the revival of Eskom as a central aspect of the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

While he outlined measures to be taken in 2021 in procuring generation from independent power producers to bolster the power grid, there were no details on a much-anticipated solution to the utility’s chronic debt pile.

“The broad direction will be known in the next three to five months in terms of where the debt goes and it won’t necessarily be a burden on the fiscus — there might be more creative ways of finding solutions,” Gordhan said.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has cited green financing as a potential way to improve the debt-repayment terms as the utility transitions from coal to renewable and cleaner-energy generation.

Bloomberg

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