Just eight months ago Comair released its results for the financial year to end-June 2019. The highlight was that earnings had increased by over 175% and headline earnings per share by 184%. For any company operating in a country with weak economic fundamentals, such performances were remarkably impressive. But hidden beneath the veneer of great profits was the matter of the correlation of the company’s performance with the economic environment where its primary operations are based. There the picture looked rather different.

The 2019 results reflecting a profit of R897m were presented in the aftermath of the conclusion of a 14-year conflict over competition involving SAA. Comair won the case and was awarded R1.1bn plus R168m in interest. Without this settlement Comair’s profits had in fact declined by 82% in the 12-month period. In addition, the airline had to deal with the grounding of the Boeing Max 737 fleet, which was being subjected to an international lockdown after two...

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