Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise in talks about founding regional divisions in Zambia and Chad and aims to buy part of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s national operator in a push to consolidate its lead as Africa’s biggest carrier.
Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam said in an interview that an outline plan for a joint-venture airline in Zambia should be signed with the government and private-equity investors in a few weeks, leading to a final agreement by November.
That will give Ethiopian a new hub in Lusaka serving southern Africa alongside Malawian Airlines, in which it has a stake.
Mr. Tewolde said parallel discussions are underway in Chad for the establishment of a new national carrier there.
Ethiopian also wants to take equity in state-owned Congo Airways, with which it already has a strategic partnership including technical assistance, the CEO said in Addis Ababa, where his company has built up a major hub targeting inter-continental transfer traffic.
While Ethiopian Air is pursuing alliances on several fronts, with Uganda mulling proposals for a joint venture and Equatorial Guinea’s Ceiba Intercontinental a candidate to upgrade a maintenance deal into something bigger, Tewolde said there’s no truth to reports that his company is seeking to buy Arik Air, the largest airline in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
“We haven’t had any discussions and we have not submitted a bid,” the CEO said, adding that while there were talks last year, Arik is now under the control of national receiver Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria.
He said he was also unaware of interest in Arik from any other bidders.