Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has lost its bid to interdict a meeting of South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) creditors scheduled for Thursday, June 24, after a Gauteng high court judge ruled the application to be nonurgent.

According to BusinessDay, Airlink's advocate argued that SAA's Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs), Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, had done "a complete U-turn" between the draft business rescue plan — which had proposed a structured wind-down — and the final one, which envisages that SAA be restructured using government financing.

SAA owes Airlink ZAR700 million rand (USD40.4 million) in unpaid revenue for flights Airlink operated as an SAA franchisee before and during the flag carrier's entry into business rescue. However, under the draft business plan published last week, lenders and lessors, whose loans are guaranteed, will see their debts repaid in full. At the same time, unsecured creditors such as Airlink will only receive ZAR0.075 (USD0.0043) on the rand from projected revenue flows over the next three years. Airlink has argued that the business rescue plan is impractical especially in light of the current COVID-19 landscape and that the two BRPs are insufficiently independent of SAA's shareholder, the South African government, to carry out their mandate properly.

However, in his ruling, Judge Leicester Adams said he was not convinced of Airlink's argument for urgency. He said that the relief Airlink had sought would, in any case, be discussed during the creditors meeting itself. Also, South African law requires such a meeting to take place within ten days of the business rescue plan having been published, he said.

The court, therefore, struck the case from its roll citing lack of urgency.

Earlier in the day, the South African government said it would be prepared to retain a "minority shareholding" in a revitalised South African Airways. However, that would depend on a strong strategic partner coming on board.

"We are not obsessed with control," Kgathatso Tlhakudi, deputy director-general at department of public enterprises, said in an interview with Radio 702. "If we find the right partner who is prepared to inject the technology and access to markets that we require for the airline, and they are assuming management control, we are quite comfortable to let go of that."

Ahead of Wednesday's hearing, the Department of Public Enterprises said it had received "unsolicited proposals" from private sector funders, private equity investors, and potential partners for a new national airline based on a restructured SAA. It did not disclose names.

South African law currently caps foreign ownership of locally-flagged airlines at 25%.