DOHA, QATAR – If all the remaining aspects of the negotiations go as planned, Qatar Airways could purchase 49 per cent stake in RwandAir, becoming a minority shareholder in the national carrier.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker confirmed on Wednesday, February 5 in Doha that the gulf airline was negotiating the acquisition of the sizable stake in RwandAir, considered one of Africa’s fastest-growing airlines.
“It is a 49 per cent stake that we are negotiating for in RwandAir,” Al Baker revealed to the press on the margins of the CAPA Qatar Aviation Summit in Qatar.
Yvonne Manzi Makolo, the Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir who’s in Qatar for the same conference confirmed that indeed they were in the process of negotiation but she could not elaborate more about the deal.
“It is true we are in negotiation for Qatar Airways to take 49 per cent stake in RwandAir. I can only confirm that at this point,” she said without revealing more details.
Makolo, however, believes once the negotiation process is done, the deal could give the national carrier a competitive edge in the aviation business both in the region and beyond.
“It’s great for an airline like RwandAir to partner with a world-class airline like Qatar Airways. There is a lot of synergies that we would tap into, and the potential for growth will be huge for the airline,” she noted.
The Qatar Airways boss told The New Times on the sideline of the conference that they were looking at finalizing the deal in less than six months, arguing that “we (Qatar Airways) are very tough negotiators.”
“We should be closing the deal in a not-so-distant future because this investment and the relationship between my country and Rwanda is very important. It should finish before the middle of this year,” he said.
The gulf carrier boss said they have already signed the memorandum of understanding with RwandAir with a few aspects of the negotiation remaining to fully complete the deal.
“We are only looking at small wordings of the contract … we should just be finished and we’ll make sure that Rwanda becomes an important hub in Africa,” he noted.
Al Baker said such an investment is based on the confidence the airline has in the country.
He mentioned Rwanda’s strategic location, political stability as well as the attractive business environment as some of the key aspects attracting them to make more investment into Rwanda.
According to Al Baker, there is also interest by Qatar Airways to invest in hotel (business) “because when you grow an airline, you will need accommodation for the staff, and you will need to bring in some specialized people or experts and you will need to provide accommodation for your cabin crew closer to the airport.”
The move, he added, is also expected to open up the Rwandan economy for other Qatari businesses, including paving way for opportunities for government institutions from Qatar to invest in real estate.
The development follows another major investment deal that the airline signed with the Government back in December to invest in airport infrastructure through Bugesera International Airport in Bugesera District.
In December, Qatar and Rwanda signed three agreements that saw the two parties set up a joint venture to build, own, and operate the international airport.
This includes the shareholders’ agreement, the share purchase agreement, and guarantee for indemnity.
“The airport is being built by our Sovereign Fund to take the capacity of 10 million passengers – single run-way airport,” the chief executive said.
It will be the first Greenfield airport in the African region.
“Africa as a whole has not had a new greenfield airport for decades. We are building a Greenfield airport in the heart of Africa – economically developed and politically very stable to serve the people of Africa,” he said.
“In the next three years you should start to see the benefits, benefits in creating jobs, in creating economic benefits to the people, uplifting the standards of people,” he added.
Al Baker also highlighted that the investment in RwandAir and airport in Bugesera would help them tap into the growing demand for air travel in Africa, which the region is currently unable to handle because of poor connectivity.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu