Kenyan President William Ruto reportedly has pitched a plan to Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson) to save Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) as the government seeks to divest entirely from the struggling carrier.

Ruto met top Delta executives on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC on December 15, where he launched a bid to sell the government’s entire 48.9% stake in Kenya Airways, reports Bloomberg.

He declined to provide details of the talks as Kenya seeks a cash-flush foreign airline as a strategic investor in the national carrier to offer expertise and cut its reliance on national treasury handouts for operational cash. “Discussions with Delta are at a preliminary stage,” Ruto said. "The government is looking for partnerships that will make Kenya Airways a profitable entity whatever that means, in whatever configuration, whatever form it takes,” he was cited by Business Daily Africa.

“I’m willing to sell the whole of Kenya Airways Plc,” he told Bloomberg. “I’m not in the business of running an airline that just has a Kenyan flag, that’s not my business.”

Quartz Africa Weekly reported the discussions with Delta Executive Vice President for External Affairs Peter Carter centred “on building partnerships to make both airlines competitive and attractive”.

Kenya Airways Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka declined to comment when approached by ch-aviation.

In June 2022, Kenya Airways and Delta Air Lines expanded their existing codeshare partnership. Both are members of the Skyteam Alliance.

Ruto's comment follows disclosures made by the Treasury that the state seeks to reduce its stake and cut the ownership of lenders who would convert their debt to hold 38%. No mention was made of Air France-KLM which owns 7.76% of Kenya Airways. No mention was also made of plans for a pan-African alliance with South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), which aims to establish the structure of a new group holding company by the end of 2023.

Surviving on state loans totalling KES56.3 billion shillings (USD430 million) since 2021 alone, Kenya Airways reported another KES9.8 billion (USD80.3 million) loss in August 2022, albeit an improvement on the KES11.48 billion (USD94.1 million) loss in the same period in 2021.

A new restructuring programme - financed with state loans that will have to be repaid - was implemented after the government dropped a re-nationalisation plan approved in 2019.