September 26, 2018 / 11:48 AM / a month ago

REFILE-UPDATE 2-African airline Fastjet reveals urgent need for more cash

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* Shares plunge over 50 pct

* Warns of low cash

* Could exit largest market Tanzania

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Fastjet Plc’s shares shed more than half of their value on Wednesday after the African budget airline said it needed more cash within a month for it to continue operating.

Fastjet, launched in 2012 and modelled on the likes of no-frills airlines easyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc , has been running short of cash for more than two years and it was unclear if investors will continue to back it.

“The company is currently in active discussions with its major shareholders regarding a potential equity fundraising, in the absence of which the group is not able to continue trading as a going concern,” the airline said in a statement.

Fastjet’s shareholders include activist M&G Investment, Janus Henderson and South African carrier Solenta. It was founded by Haji-Ioannou, the son of a shipping magnate.

Fastjet added that talks with some shareholders had been positive and discussions were ongoing, though it did not guarantee success.

The budget airline has offered shares for cash at least twice in the last three months to meet its cash requirements, including last year to expand in South Africa and Mozambique.

In September last year, it looked to raise $44 million but could only manage to raise $28 million.

Fastjet, which operates in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, said it required more money by the end of October and said it was considering pulling out of its largest market in Tanzania.

Fastjet’s shares, which have fallen over 16 percent this year, were down nearly 38 percent at 1231 GMT.

The airline also posted a bigger half-year operating loss of $14.6 million on Wednesday, from a loss of $13.2 million last year.

The company said it was evaluating its Tanzanian operations and could cease operations in the country. Fastjet said the impact on the country’s operations from changes in the competitive landscape had been significant.

Tanzania, where Fastjet has struggled in the face of tough conditions, brings in almost 70 percent on Fastjet’s revenue, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon data.

Its operations in the country include domestic routes from its Dar es Salaam base to Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, and Mwanza with international routes to Tanzania from Lusaka in Zambia and Harare in Zimbabwe. (Reporting by Sangameswaran S and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru Editing by Jon Boyle and Elaine Hardcastle)

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