Mozambique: Is the airports company for sale to reduce the debt?

President-Guebuza-inaugurates-Nacala-Airport-2

In an unclear set of statements last week, it was said that the Mozambique Airports Company (Aeroportos de Mocambique, AdM) is to be restructured and part privatized. The company lost money last year, according to company chair Emanuel Chaves who refused to give numbers. He added AdM has government guaranteed debts of $500 mn. (O Pais, 2 June)

In particular, Chaves on 1 June said that AdM wants to “covert these guaranteed debts to another financer who might buy our debt.” The debt is largely for new airport facilities in Maputo and Pemba and the new airport in Nacala. (Noticias 3 June, O Pais, 2 June) The debt includes loans of $130 mn from China and either $80 mn or $144 mn from the Brazilian development bank (BNDES). (Bloomberg 2 June; sources vary on how much of the BNDES loan is for Nacala.)

On Tuesday 31 May the Council of Ministers announced that that the new Nacala airport would be privately operated. Nacala has proved to be a white elephant. Opened in 2014 with the promise of being a major international airport, it has a capacity of 500,000 passengers per year and can take planes up to the size of a Boeing 747. But so far it has only one flight a day from Maputo, and no foreign airline has expressed any interest in flying there.

 

The airport was funded with a $144 mn loan from the Brazilian development bank BNDES, conditional on the contract going to a Brazilian company; without tender, it was given to Odebrecht for both design and construction. The website Diario do Poder claims the money went directly to Odebrecht and did not even pass through Mozambique. Last year, company president Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed for 19 years as part of the Lava Jato corruption scandal in Brazil; he was convicted of corruption, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organisation. The judge also cited the involvement of the Odebrecht company in this “criminal scheme”.

In addition, five tiny airports will be privately operated, Chaves said: Inhamane (the only one with scheduled flights), Bilene, Lumbo, Ponta de Ouro, and Mocimboa da Praia.

And on Friday (3 June), President Filipe Nyusi speaking in Maputo at a lunch for business people, said “The government is reflecting on the relevance of the existence of at least 20 [state] companies. We [have already] talked about the company Airports of Mozambique. However, more companies will be evaluated.” (AIM Pt 3 June) This seems a clear message that AdM and other state companies could be privatised.

By: Joseph Hanlon

Source: News reports
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