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KQ buyout, delisting plan unveiled

Kenya Airways
A Kenya Airways plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Treasury has announced plans to buy out Air France-KLM, local banks and more than 80, 000 individual shareholders from Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ and delist the national carrier from the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)

Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett told Parliament on Thursday that the buyout plan comes after the House voted in July to nationalise Kenya Airways to save it from mounting debts.

The Transport ministry is working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to hire a technical expert to conduct a fresh valuation and buying price.

The loss-making airline is 48.9 percent government-owned, 38.1 percent (lenders), 7.8 percent (Air France-KLM), 2.4 percent (Kenya Airways employees) and 2.8 percent (small investors).

“You have to ensure that everybody gets their dues, that is why you have to do valuation. Once you know how much it will cost you and have the process under the law… it is a matter of getting the shareholders themselves to pass the necessary resolutions to facilitate the payouts within the law,” Ms Koimett said.

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She added that the technical expert will be hired ahead of Christmas and that the government targets to close the buyout by end of next year, setting the ground for its delisting from the NSE where Kenya Airways listed in 1996 through a privatisation plan.

Kenya Airways shares have plunged 81 percent at the Nairobi bourse to Sh2.72 each, valuing the carrier at Sh15.45 billion.

The market valuation puts the lenders’ stake at Sh6 billion, Air France-KLM (Sh1.23 billion), Kenya Airways employees (Sh380 million) and small investors (Sh443 million).

A consortium of local lenders, who acquired 38 percent of the company’s equity during the 2017 restructuring, could be paid through government debt, possibly 10-year Treasury bonds, an official at the Transport ministry said. They converted the Sh17 billion debt into equity.

On Thursday, KQ chairman Michael Joseph warned of financial duress for the national carrier if the buyout deals and the nationalisation plan are not completed in the next six months.

“We need a decision because in the next six months we run the danger of considering alternative measures that are not pleasant,” Mr Joseph told MPs without giving details.

Kenya wants to emulate countries like Ethiopia, which runs air transport assets - from airports to fuelling operations - under a single company, using funds from the more profitable parts to support others.

Under the model approved by Parliament, Kenya Airways will become one of four subsidiaries in an Aviation Holding Company.

The others will be Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the country’s biggest airport; an aviation college; and Kenya Airports Authority, which will operate all the nation’s other airports.

Kenya Airways could renegotiate its aircraft leases based on its reduced risk profile, he said, noting that the airline needs more than its 40 planes.

JKIA alone has annual revenues of Sh12 billion, half of which is profit, a parliamentary report shows. Nationalization will exempt Kenya Airways from taxes on engines, maintenance and fuel, allowing it to sell cheaper tickets, the report says.

The airline charges more than its competitors, forcing price-sensitive passengers through hubs like Addis Ababa and Kigali.

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