The Botswana government has named locally-based firm Wilderness Safaris as the preferred bidder in the privatization of state-owned carrier, Air Botswana (BP, Gaborone).

The ecotourism operator had earlier confirmed it had submitted a proposal following a call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) in February. Botswana's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Kabelo Ebineng, told a parliamentary committee this week that a deal is expected to be completed "in the next 9-12 months."

He did not expand on what form the partnership would take. However, quoting an internal government memo, Botswana's Patriot on Sunday newspaper says Wilderness Safaris will be sold a majority stake in loss-making Air Botswana, subject to final negotiations and regulatory requirements.

The report adds that in the final round of considerations, the only other viable offer was that of South Africa's Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), a one-time suitor of Air Botswana.