The South African government has selected Takatso, a new entity created by pan-African infrastructure-focused private equity firm Harith General Partners and Global Aviation, as the equity partner to revive South African Airways.
The Takatso consortium will own 51% of the airline and the South African government will hold the remaining 49%. The partners intend to list the airline in the future to meet future funding requirements and to broaden shareholding. The listing may also provide Harith a window for an eventual exit.
The buyers will initially commit more than ZAR3 billion ($222 million) to revive the national airline. South African Airways has been facing financial problems for years and was severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic that has had a crippling effect on the aviation industry globally.
“The partnership represents a robust, exciting South African-bred solution. Harith, as owners of Lanseria International Airport, has significant experience in the transport infrastructure and aviation sectors,” said Harith co-founder and consortium chairperson Tshepo Mahloele.
He added that Harith has deployed more than $1 billion into a portfolio of critical infrastructure assets across the African continent that support regional economies.
Harith focuses on five core infrastructure sectors—energy, transport, telecommunications, health and water. It has combined assets under management in excess of $1.2 billion from its two private equity infrastructure funds. It is now in raising a top-up fund worth $200 million.
In the transport field, its portfolio includes Lanseria International Airport, South Africa’s only privately owned international airport.
Takatso is led by Gidon Novick, the former co-CEO of Comair who recently co-founded budget airline LIFT.
“Covid-19 has created a unique set of circumstances for the industry,” Novick said. “There are incredible skills and talent available right here in South Africa as well as an abundance of low-priced aircraft available globally—both critical ingredients for a successful airline.”
Takatso said a due diligence exercise will now get underway. Once completed, it would share details on key issues such as the route network rollout, fleet selection, leadership team, transformation, brand relaunch, technology and global partnerships.
Global Aviation is a South Africa-based aviation company with exposure to aircraft acquisition, maintenance, flight operations and commercial airline management. The company has a fleet of nine Airbus aircraft. In 2020, Global launched LIFT in partnership with Novick and Jonathan Ayache, former regional COO of Uber.