RwandAir in Talks with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airlines and Ethiopian airlines over 49% Stake

RwandAir (WB, Kigali) CEO John Mirenge has disclosed his airline is in talks with both Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) and Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi International) over the planned sale of a 49% stake in the growing East African carrier.
“Currently, we are in talks with Ethiopian Airlines, but we are also talking to Etihad Airways,” he said in a statement to Panapress. “This step will help us to select the right airline that would fit in.”

In addition to gaining equity in the airline, the successful suitor would also gain a presence on the airline’s board, he said.

As RwandAir Express (WB, Kigali), the Rwandan national carrier was slated for privatization in 2007 with Italy’s Meridiana (IG, Olbia) set to become its strategic partner. The deal however, failed to materialize following disagreements over strategy.

Since then, the carrier has grown from a virtual carrier leasing its entire fleet, to operating its own which now consists of two B737-700s, two B737-800s, two CRJ-900s, two Dash 8-400s, and soon, two A330s. While it currently focuses on intra-African flights with Dubai International its sole intercontinental service, RwandAir has set its sights on expanding into Europe and Asia.

It plans to leverage Rwanda’s ideal location in the heart of Africa to develop a regional hub to rival that of Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta and Addis Ababa. The Rwandan government, which owns the airline, has pledged to build a new USD700 million international airport – Bugesera – to help facilitate this goal as part of its Vision 2020 development plan.

As such, should Etihad be selected, it would be the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s second investment in Africa after Air Seychelles (HM, Mahé) while for its part, Ethiopian has successfully established partnerships in West and Southern Africa (ASKY Airlines (KP, Lomé) in Togo and Malawian Airlines (3W, Blantyre) in Malawi) as part of its regional hubs model. In its quest to develop a Central African airline, Ethiopian has been linked to projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, as well as Rwanda.

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