Nigeria Air: Foreign investors jostle for 49% stake

As the take-off of the National Carrier project, Nigeria Air, gathers momentum, foreign investors are intensifying efforts to win and be chosen as the preferred bidder.

ALLNEWS NIGERIA has learnt that there is renewed interest among the bidders, particularly foreigners, following the Federal Government’s promise to formally launch the project on July 1, 2022.

The government has also given Nigerians the assurance that it will not give special preference to any bidder, while maintaining that it is yet to endorse any organisation, foreign or local.

It also denied reports claiming that the government had chosen Qatar Airways as its preferred bidder for the proposed airline.

Investigation by THEWILL showed that the new airline will eventually take to the sky after the first out of the three wet-leased aircraft for the airline arrives in the country in June. Also, the airline’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), which will enable it to commence as a scheduled operator from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), may be granted in June or earlier.

According to a source, the airline, which was originally scheduled to commence operations in December 2018, could not start as planned due to the preparation towards the 2019 general election, while the outbreak of COVID-19 prevented it from taking off between 2019 and 2021.

The source hinted that the transaction team for the project has since been on ground in Nigeria and working towards its emergence, while ensuring the issuance of Request for Proposal (RFP) for the establishment of the national carrier, which was advertised in national newspapers and the foreign media.

The source also said that about 10 Nigerian experts, including the Interim Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, among others, has been recruited for its takeoff, while Abuja has been chosen as its Operational Control Centre (OCC) and the headquarters.

The government, he noted, has chosen May 10, 2022 as the last day of the submission of bids, while several foreign airlines and investors had already bid to be part of the national carrier project.

The source said: “The process for the establishment of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is very much on track, but as it is, no decision has been taken on any of the bidders. All the concerned authorities are being carried along in the process that will lead to the establishment of the new national carrier for Nigeria, including the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

“Nigeria Air is a huge issue for many international airlines, private investors and players in the sector. The airline is Public Private Participation (PPP)-focused and the Federal Government will only own a maximum of five percent stake in the airline. We intend to start with domestic operations and later spread our wings to the West coast of Africa and the entire world in the future.”

It was also gathered that the Federal Government planned to start the new airline with three wet-leased aircraft and to grow the fleet to 30 within five years of operations.

The government is already in talks with Boeing and Airbus aircraft manufacturing companies, as part of its future growth for the airline. About 7,000 jobs will be created by the airline between five and 10 years through the airline Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aircraft leasing company, which are also in the pipeline.

“We are very optimistic that the airline will be a success. We have a very huge market in Nigeria with its over 200 million people. The Minister of Aviation is committed to the implementation of the roadmap that was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the structure of the Nigeria Air is such that private sector partners/consortia are expected to comprise an international airline (maximum of 49 per cent shares) and Nigerian financial and institutional investors (minimum of 46 per cent shares) so that the total Nigerian shareholding will hold a minimum of 51 per cent of the shares of Nigeria Air’ (including the five per cent non-interactive FGN share), as required by international laws for a national carrier.

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