The logo of South African Airways sits on the tailfin of an Airbus Group NV A340-600 aircraft during a live weight saving demonstration at O.R. Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg)

South African Airways Is Said to Consider Share Sale for Cash

(Bloomberg) -- South African Airways could sell shares to the public as the state-owned carrier seeks ways to end years of losses and reduce the need for bailouts, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move would enable the government to cut its stake in much the same way as it did with former phone monopoly Telkom SA SOC Ltd. almost two decades ago, said the people, who asked not to be named as the information is not public. However, the carrier would first need to make progress with a turnaround plan designed to reach break-even in three years, they said.

While the sale of a stake to an equity partner has been aired repeatedly over the years, this is the first time it’s been suggested that SAA should list on a stock-exchange. Pretoria-based Telkom’s initial public offering in 2003 raised almost $500 million and the government’s shareholding is now just under 40 percent.

SAA declined to comment.

The airline’s Chief Executive Officer Vuyani Jarana is facing renewed pressure from his bosses in government, which last month put aside 5 billion rand ($352 million) to help SAA repay debt. Last week, Finance Minster Tito Mboweni said it was his preference to shut down the carrier rather than continue to stretch state finances, while his counterpart at the department of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, warned on Monday that “radical things need to be done” for the airline to survive.