Having lost a controlling stake in El Al Israel Airlines (LY, Tel Aviv Ben Gurion) last year, Knafaim Holdings has now set its sights on acquiring a 49.9% stake in TUS Airways (U8, Larnaca). Under the terms of a May 26 letter of intent, Knafaim, controlled by Israeli businesswoman Tami Mozes-Borovitz, will invest USD5 million while US businessman Kenneth Woolley will buy the remaining 50.1% for USD4 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of July, a stock exchange disclosure said.

Knafaim Holdings, whose stake in El Al diminished when the Israeli flag carrier applied for a government bailout, will own the shareholding in TUS via its Global Knafaim Leasing subsidiary. Woolley is the controlling shareholder of Pennsylvania-headquartered Eastern Airlines (2D, Miami Int'l), which rebranded itself from Dynamic International Airways (2D, Greensboro) in 2018.

TUS currently has a single A320-200, on lease from AerCap, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, with a second of the type soon to be delivered from the same lessor. As previously reported, it completed a re-certification and re-licencing process earlier this month with the Cyprus Department of Civil Aviation ahead of a planned June relaunch.

Under the terms of the LOI, TUS may also lease two Airbus A330 aircraft from Global Knafaim Leasing, the contract said, and the Israeli lessor will provide the Cypriot carrier with “aviation and consulting services". The ch-aviation fleets ownership module shows that Global Knafaim Leasing’s portfolio includes two A330-200s, msn 322 and 1293, and two A330-300s, msn 357 and 1157.

TUS Airways operated flights between Cyprus, Israel, Greece, and Italy before the halting of operations at the start of the coronavirus crisis, having already denied reports at the end of 2019 that it was close to collapse. After its relaunch, it recently said that it would initially focus on charters to Greece, including its islands, and Israel and was in contact with tour operators about such flights.

Sidney Slasky, president and chief executive of Global Knafaim Leasing, told the financial daily Globes: “We believe in the partnership with Woolley, a knowledgeable and experienced person in the aviation industry, in order to relaunch operations at TUS as a new, efficient, dynamic, and innovative airline with a licence to operate in Europe allowing it to evolve both in Europe and in more remote destinations.”

He added that the deal fits Knafaim Holdings’ “strategy to become a global player” while providing solutions for aircraft owned by the company and “taking advantage of the business opportunities that exist in the world of aviation and utilising the synergies with the company’s leasing activities.”