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GABORONE, March 9 (Reuters) - At least 17 companies have expressed an interest in operating Air Botswana as the government embarks on its latest drive to privatise loss-making state companies.
The transport department invited expressions of interest last month, saying it was open to proposals on various forms of privatisation of the national airline including joint ventures, ownership, franchising and concessions.
"At least 17 companies have expressed interest but for now I cannot say who they are or what model of privatisation did they propose," Transport Minister Kitso Mokaila said on Thursday.
He added: "We have roped in the International Air Transport Association to help us assess them with the intention of getting the one that has the most suitable model for Botswana. From there we will then go to tender."
As well as four domestic routes, Air Botswana provides cargo and air passenger services to Cape Town and Johannesburg from Gaborone, Francistown and the tourism hubs of Maun and Kasane.
Financial losses, blamed on a large workforce and an aging fleet, have prompted a five-year turnaround plan that includes cutting costs and cancelling unprofitable routes.
Previous offers from Comair, South Africa's Airlink and Air Mauritius have fallen through.
Botswana, whose main source of wealth is diamonds, has more than 30 state-owned enterprises, most of them loss making, in industries ranging from tourism and power to housing and finance. (Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Jon Boyle)