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Thursday Nov 15, 2012

Tshwane plans to sell Wonderboom airport gather steam

Tshwane Metro Council is moving ahead with plans to sell Wonderboom Airport.

While the metro will retain ownership of the land, the operations of the airport north of the city will be become the responsibility of a private entity.

A timeline has been set up by the municipality to get the process under way and for the appointment of a transaction advisor to oversee the project.

The municipality is hoping to have the process finalised by January 2014.

This decision, according to a report submitted to the council, has been based on a study that was completed in November 2010 which assessed the metro's options when it came to the future of the airport.

According to the report, the operation and development of an airport was not part of the core business of a municipality.

According to a council resolution on November 25, 2010 it agreed to "the selling of the business operation of Wonderboom airport to a private entity, while council retains the land ownership and leases the use of the land and the right to further develop the land to a private entity, be approved in principle".

To ensure the successful implementation of the sale, the report recommended that an external transaction advisor with particular expertise in such a transaction should be appointed.

Another report submitted to council earlier this year indicated that among the flight operators interested were Lladnar Air, Marung Aviation, Lakota Aviation, Airlink. The troubled Velvet Sky Aviation had also approached the municipality with requests to operPatrick Hlahla ate from the airport.

The municipality has spent millions in recent years on upgrades to the airport.

DA councillor Francois Bekker said the airport possessed an economic opportunity "that begs to be unlocked", but not by the municipality.

Bekker said the DA agreed that operating an airport was not the core function of a municipality and welcomed the plans set out in the report.

"How we manage the airport in the meantime can affect the proposed sale of the airport as a business entity. If tabled as a business deal, it must look viable and attractive to prospective buyers and investors.

"Continuing problems such as high fuel prices that prevent scheduled flights and positive business growth in general, will damage any prospect of presenting this deal favourably," he said.

Bekker added that it was critically important who the municipality got to facilitate the process that would lead to a successful transaction.

"Aviation is a specialised industry that requires specialised knowledge. Getting the specialist on board to facilitate this process is non-negotiable," he said.

Bekker said if the correct processes were followed, the airport could be an income generator for the city, stimulating economic growth in the area.

Pretoria News

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