(eTN) – The handover ceremony last week of the 7th brand new ATR aircraft to Precision Air was graced by a number of government functionaries and key business personalities in Dar es Salaam at the Julius Nyerere International Airport. Some governmental officials, expecting to hear nothing but niceties, were said to have been less than amused when one of the speakers candidly spoke about Air Tanzania and the recent announcement in parliament that almost half a billion US dollars would be needed to get the airline back on its feet.
Efforts by government to find a strategic investor have failed for several years now and left Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) in a financially precarious position, creditors snapping at their heels and operationally almost disabled considering the number of serviceable aircraft they are left with. With this situation prevailing for years now, it allowed Precision Air to rev up their market share and becoming Tanzania’s predominant airline in recent years.
Mr. Regnard Mengi was quoted to have asked the Tanzanian government, if not in so many words but surely by meaning, to stop pouring money into ATCL and instead support Precision Air; recognize and turn it into a de facto national airline and help it grow from strength to strength and allow it to capture more travelers coming to the country for business, safaris, and beach holidays.
Major shareholders, including Kenya Airways, have resolved already to float about 30 percent of their shares on the local stock exchange next year to promote wider Tanzanian ownership and to make it a truly Tanzanian-owned airline – something ardent supports of ATCL have in the past often questioned and used to “de-campaign” Precision in the public arena. The IPO (initial public offering) on the Dar stock exchange, due to start by the end of December, is expected to raise at least US$25 million, according to an airline source in Dar es Salaam.
Precision Air operates the largest fleet of ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft in Eastern Africa, besides which they fly a B737, and although the delivery of the last of the ordered ATRs has now been concluded, it is expected that fresh announcements about bringing more aircraft to the fleet, and expanding frequencies and destinations, are imminent.