May 19, 2016 / 4:09 PM / 4 years ago

Zimbabwe offers empowerment law exemption to attract equal partner in state airline

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe will exempt a foreign airline from its black empowerment law to offer a 50-50 partnership in Air Zimbabwe in an effort to keep the state-owned carrier flying.

Loss-making Air Zimbabwe, suffering after years of mismanagement and grappling with high operating costs and old equipment and aircraft, told parliament last year that it needed $260 million in new capital to survive and asked the government to take over its heavy debt burden.

Transport Minister Joram Gumbo said on Thursday that the government will take on Air Zimbabwe’s more than $200 million of debt and exempt any prospective partner from the law that restricts foreign investors to minority stakes in Zimbabwe businesses.

Gumbo said the government has a list of a dozen foreign airlines that are potential partners but gave no names and did not say when it expects to announce a deal.

“We are going to be looking for somebody who will partner us at par,” Gumbo said in a speech to a conference of the International Air Travel Association in the tourist town of Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe.

“The Indigenisation (and Economic Empowerment) Act on this deal is not coming in,” he later told reporters.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and David Goodman

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