Mmegi Online :: Wilderness confirms Air Botswana bid
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Wilderness confirms Air Botswana bid

Tourism concern, Wilderness Safaris has confirmed submitting a bid for Air Botswana becoming the first publicly known bidder for the privatisation of the national airline.
By Staff Writer Tue 30 May 2017, 18:00 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Wilderness confirms Air Botswana bid








In a commentary accompanying the Johannesburg (JSE) and Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed company’s financials for the year ended February 28, 2017, Wilderness confirmed the interest but said there has been no further progress since the proposal was submitted.

“The group has submitted an Expression of Interest in the privatisation of Air Botswana in response to a public invitation from government in February, but there has been no further progress in the matter. Investors will be kept advised in the normal manner should there be any further concrete developments in this regard,” said Wilderness.

Transport and Communication minister Kitso Mokaila told the media in March that at least 17 companies had responded to the Expression of Interest (EOI) in which government said it was open to proposals on various forms of privatisation of the national airline including joint ventures, ownership, franchising and concessions.

Through its partner, Wilderness Air, the tourism company says on its website that it operates 35 small aircraft transporting tourists between camps in their southern Africa operations. The bulk of Wilderness aircraft are Cessna and Airvan models, which have a capacity of between 5-12 passengers. Apart from Wilderness, Comair is the only other company that has publicly stated its intention to participate in the airline’s EOI.

Wilderness’ statement comes in the midst of perceived influence peddling by political authorities to award the Air Botswana tender to the tourism company as it is said to be linked to President Ian Khama.

Khama has publicly denied holding any shares in Wilderness Safaris, but has previously   confirmed to Reuters that he holds shareholding in a concession that is leased to the tourism company.

 Rebuffing conflict of interest  suggestions, Khama is reported to have said  he  has held the shares in the concession long before his brother, Tshekedi became the minister of tourism.

“I’m not a shareholder in Wilderness Safaris. I have shares in a

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concession – just a concession – which is held by Wilderness Safaris, and I had them before he (Tshekedi) was the tourism minister,” reads a transcript of Khama’s September  2016  interview  with Reuters.

On its leases, the tourism company said the government has renewed several leases to existing operators and Wilderness has now received its draft leases for the concessions upon which Mombo, Little Mombo and Xigera camps are located.

“Accordingly, the group expects the leases for the concessions upon which Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura are situated to follow suit. The rebuilding of Mombo camp has commenced following permission to proceed from the Botswana government,” said Wilderness.

Taking into account the lease renewals, Wilderness said new or development capital expenditure is set to continue at the current high levels and, in line with the group’s philosophy to ensure properties and assets remain in pristine condition.

Excluding acquisitions, capital expenditure for the year ended February 2017 amounted to P143 million. Approximately P40 million was spent on new camp developments, P26 million on rebuilding existing camps and once-off or timing related costs amounting to P18 million made up of aircraft engines, solar plant, vehicles and camp improvements following fire damage.

The balance of P60 million is defensive or maintenance in nature.

For the next financial year, Wilderness said its board has approved P239 million in capital comprising new or strategic projects amounting to P166 million, including Mombo camp, and the rebuilding of an existing camp.

Meanwhile, Wilderness’ revenue increased by 18% to P1.11 billion in the reporting period driven by an increase in bednights sold. Overall bednight sales increased by 18% to 165,864 and bednight sales grew by two percent.

Profit before tax fell 16% to P101 million due to doubling of finance cost as well as unrealised foreign exchange loss on loans. A dividend of 16.5 thebe was declared payable on June 26.

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