Ethiopian Airlines finalises deal for 49-per stake in Air Malawi

Ethiopian Airlines had finalised a deal for the acquisition of 49 per cent of Air Malawi, which would be renamed as Malawian Airlines Ltd, according to local media reports.

Earlier this year, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told leading monthly commercial aviation magazine,  ATW (formerly Air Transport World) he was negotiating with Air Malawi for creating a hub in southern part of Africa.

''We are in discussions. The plan is to transfer to Air Malawi one Boeing 737 as well as one [Bombardier] Q400,'' he told ATW on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in June.

Malawi's Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) CEO Jimmy Lipunga said the deal was ''now settled'' during a press conference today, reported by various media outlets. He added the government had agreed to change the airline's name to Malawian Airlines Ltd.

Star Alliance member Ethiopian Airlines would take 49 per cent of the venture as a strategic investor, while the Malawi government would continue with a majority 51 per cent shareholding.

Ethiopian has a 40 per cent stake in Togo, Lome-based ASKY Airlines.

Negotiations had been progressing for a while and, as per earlier reports, Malawi's government sought a strategic investor in the wake of the financial collapse of Air Malawi, to create a professionally managed new national airline backed by a strong partner.

After ASKY Airlines in West Africa, Malawian Airlines would be the second such joint venture, with Ethiopian Airlines seeking to assert its continental leadership through both direct expansion across Africa and strategic partnerships, which could help feed traffic into Ethiopian's long haul network and in turn benefit from 'de-feeding' Ethiopian's traffic to the respective countries into the near region.