Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa International) believes its prospective Nigerian joint venture will go ahead despite concerns within the Nigerian government. Under the plan, it will take a 49% stake in startup Nigeria Air (NWB, Lagos), with private investors taking 46% and the Nigerian government 5%.

Speaking to Aviation Daily, Ethiopian Airlines CCO Lemma Yadecha Gudeta said the joint venture was "almost a done deal." However, a change of government in Nigeria this year has stalled the process. "The new authorities in Nigeria wanted to look into how the [original] agreements were made," he said. Last month, ch-aviation reported that the joint venture was on hold pending reassessment by new aviation minister, Festus Keyamo, and legal action by the Airline Operators of Nigeria.

Gudeta said Ethiopian had ferried a B737-800 to Nigeria some time ago for proving flights in that country's airspace in order to secure a Nigerian air operator's certificate. It had also allocated two B787s and six B737 MAX types to Nigeria Air. "It was disappointing for us because we had put all the resources aside," said Gudeta. "We are waiting for them to tell us when to start the airline, but we are very confident that's going to happen very soon."

Meanwhile, Nigeria's Armada News reported that discussions between Ethiopian Airlines and the Nigerian government are in process but that Keyamo has several concerns, including a mooted five-year tax waiver for Ethiopian, the potential creation of a monopoly and hindering of fair competition in the local market, and Ethiopian having control over the appointments of Nigeria Air's personnel. He has reportedly informed the Nigerian president of his concerns; it is up to the president to ultimately give the joint venture the go-ahead.

The Nigerian government says it is committed to protecting the interests of local airlines and ensuring a level playing field across the Nigerian aviation industry.

Separately, Ethiopian Airlines may increase its flights on the Ethiopia-France country pair after the respective governments signed a new air services agreement. Currently, it operates daily Addis Ababa-Paris CDG and thrice-weekly Addis-Marseilles roundtrips. The new agreement will allow Ethiopian to expand its flights to six non-Paris metro airports and commence thrice-weekly dedicated cargo roundtrips on the country pair.