Comair merger gets green light, and the airline could be flying again by December

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  • The Competition Tribunal has given its approval to a deal that could see the airline take to the skies by 1 December. 
  • Approval is conditional, however - the merger parties may not retrench any employees as a result of the merger for three years. 
  • The new airline will make employment offers to all affected employees who have been retrenched when jobs become available.

The Competition Tribunal has given the operator of and British Airways in South Africa the green light to merge with the new venture of its former board members and executives, SA Bidco, on condition that the two companies preserve jobs in the airline for the next three years.

The Tribunal held a virtual hearing on the proposed merger between Comair and SA Bidco on Friday afternoon after the Competition Commission conditionally approved the deal on Tuesday. Comair’s business rescue practitioners had also approved the merger, as it would enable Comair to resume operations and resolve its current financial situation.

Comair went into business rescue on 5 May 2020. But the business rescue practitioners said the airline could begin flying again in December if their proposed business rescue plan, which envisaged that the preferred investment consortium, comprising several former Comair board members and executives, called the Comair Rescue Consortium, would inject fresh equity into the company.

On Friday, the Tribunal said SA Bidco, which is a newly established company created for the purpose of the merger, had got its approval to continue with the transaction subject to certain employment and a B-BBEE ownership conditions of the merged entity.

"The merger parties will not retrench any employees as a result of the merger for a period of three years from the Flying Start Date," reads one of the conditions. The Tribunal added that the flying start date was scheduled to be 1 December 2020.

The Tribunal said Comair and SA Bidco had submitted that the merger would save a large number of jobs in Comair, but up to 200 employees would face compulsory retrenchment for operational reasons, in the months following the implementation of the merger.

"In terms of the merger conditions, the new airline will make employment offers to all affected employees who have been retrenched when jobs become available at the new airline post-merger. This commitment will apply for a period of 36 months after the Flying Start Date and is subject to employees being suitably qualified," said the Tribunal.

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