South Africa has so far received four promising proposals for South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), Department of Public Enterprises director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi has told Bloomberg.

A team from the government department has, together with advisers from Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), launched negotiations with private entities interested in buying into the insolvent flag carrier, which needs in excess of ZAR10 billion rand (USD578 million) to resume operations.

The South African government confirmed in a statement on August 19, following some media speculation, that it had hired RMB as an adviser to help it assess the offers for stakes in the airline.

Tlhakudi declined to name the potential suitors, but the government has said previously that private equity firms and potential aviation partners have made approaches. Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) has expressed an interest in the past.

Ideally, the government wants SAA to resume operations by the end of 2020, he said, though this also depends on covid-19 developments.

South African Airways has been in administration since December and its fleet largely grounded since March. With its last two A350-900s having been returned to Air Mauritius (MK, Mauritius), from which they were sub-leased, on August 20, SAA's remaining fleet is now down to three A319-100s, two A320-200s, one A330-300, three A340-300s, and four A340-600s. According to ch-aviation fleets advanced data, only the A320s and A340-600s are currently active on repatriation flights.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has said that any more cash injections must come from private investors.

SAA may eventually be listed on Johannesburg’s stock exchange, Tlhakudi said, as it would gain the kind of company management discipline that would result from “delivering a product on time to the market.”