June 9, 2017 / 2:43 PM / a year ago

Tourism firm Wilderness withdraws bid for Air Botswana

JOHANNESBURG, , June 9 (Reuters) - Botswana’s largest tourism company, Wilderness Holdings, said on Friday it has withdrawn a bid for loss-making state airline, Air Botswana.

Botswana put the airline up for sale in February, part of plans to privatise loss-making state-owned companies.

On June 7, the Ministry of Transport and Communications told a parliamentary committee that Wilderness, which operates small aircraft under Wilderness Air, was the government’s preferred bidder.

“After careful deliberation, the Company has decided to not pursue the matter any further. Accordingly, the Company has withdrawn its Expression of Interest and has advised the Government of its decision,” it said in a statement.

Wilderness did not give a reason.

Air Botswana has been operating at a loss due to a bloated workforce and an aging fleet, prompting the government to cut costs and cancel unprofitable routes. It has already stopped flights to Harare and Lusaka.

In March Transport Minister Kitso Mokaila said at least 17 companies had expressed interest in Air Botswana, without naming them.

Previous offers from Comair , South Africa’s Airlink and Air Mauritius have fallen through. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Joe Brock)

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