The JSE-listed group went into business rescue in May this year

If its business rescue plan is accepted, Comair, the parent company of two South African brands, Kulula.Com as well as British Airways (under a licence agreement), says it hopes to begin flying again in December.

The publication of the plan just before Wednesday night (2 September), follows negotiations with a preferred investor which will see an equity injection of R500 million in return for a 99% shareholding. A suitable BBBEE partner will take 15% of the shareholding within 12 months. Creditors and shareholders now have until 18 September to adopt the plan.

The Comair Rescue Consortium (previously known as the Moritz Consortium), is the preferred offer, and consists of, amongst others ex-Comair members Martin Moritz, Rodney Sacks and Piet van Hoven. Other high net-worth individuals include Hilton Schlosberg, Steven Herring and Luthier Capital.

Two equal tranches of R50 million in September and R50 million in October will be paid as secured post-commencement finance. Additional funding from lenders of R1.4 billion is required in order to successfully implement the adopted plan. This will comprise R600 million in net new debt according to Comair. Existing debt will be deferred to provide the remaining R800 million, with capital payments deferred for 12 months and interest for six months. Part of the plan is for Comair to be be de-listed from the JSE and a new board appointed.

“The turnaround plan is focused on rationalising operating costs and growing ancillary revenue.” Comair said. “The workforce will be reduced from approximately 2,200 employees to 1,800 through a voluntary retrenchment and early retirement programmes, as well as the continuation of the Section 189 retrenchment process that the company commenced prior to business rescue.”

Comair’s fleet will comprise of 25 aircraft, of which 17 will be next-generation Boeing 737-800s and the remaining three Boeing 737-400s. This fleet mix increases the proportion of owned aircraft, which in turn, lilits exposure to foreign currency risk for Comair. “The aircraft will gradually return to service from December with a seven-month ramp-up period until June 2021,” Comair said.

Other elements of the offer include maintaining the existing relationships with British Airways, Discovery Vitality and Boeing.

Richard Ferguson, one of the business rescue practitioners, said that if creditors approve the plan, the business rescue process should be concluded by 31 March 2021, if not sooner, after which Comair will allowed to continue to operate as a sustainable business.

Comair is a national asset and getting it back in the air will save 1,800 jobs. With British Airways (Local) and Kulula.Com once again airborne, the South African flying public will have more choice and competitive fares. This will strengthen the aviation sector and contribute to the broader South African economy.

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