Mboweni on SAA funding crisis: 'We are still trying to find additional financing'

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said on Thursday that National Treasury is still trying to find additional funding for cash-strapped flag carrier SAA. 

Mboweni was speaking to the media ahead of leading SA's delegation to the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

The annual gathering of financiers, business leaders and top government officials will run between 21 and 24 January. 

“Given the serious financial and operational challenges facing SAA, the department of public enterprise and that of National Treasury are working closely with the management of South African Airways and the business rescue practitioners," he said. 

“The National Treasury has provided financial support to the crisis … and as of yesterday [Wednesday] when I was speaking to the director-general of National Treasury we were still trying to find additional financing for South African Airways. He hasn’t briefed me about what has happened between yesterday and this morning,” said the finance minister. 

The cash-strapped airline was placed under business rescue in early December last year.

Speaking to Fin24 by phone earlier Thursday morning, a spokesperson for business rescue practitioners (BRP) Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana said R2bn in funding from Treasury was still outstanding.

The R2bn was supposed to form part of a larger R4bn post business rescue commencement finance package. The remaining R2bn was supposed to be supplied by private finance institutions and would be guaranteed by the state.

"We will find out soon what mechanism government has to release the R2bn," the BRP spokesperson told Fin24 in a separate note. 

Earlier on Thursday, trade unions met with the business rescue practitioner. The National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa will issue a statement on the meeting later today, spokesperson Phakamile Majola told Fin24.

Commenting on recent developments of the business rescue process, Grant Back, chairperson of the SAA Pilots' Association told Fin24 that the union believes SAA is salvageable and the union is "willing to work with a fit for purpose management team with the necessary skills and experience to turn the company around".

"What is needed are leadership, skills, accountability and government buy-in to prevent SAA from being wound down," he said.

- Additional reporting by Jan Cronje and Carin Smith

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