South Africa almost doubled the level of funding for the national airline to 16.4 billion rand ($1.1 billion), cash that will go toward supporting a restructuring plan for the technically insolvent carrier.
The bailout will be used to service and pay debt previously guaranteed by the state over the “medium term,” Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said in his budget speech in Cape Town on Wednesday. The amount compares with 9.2 billion rand earmarked for South African Airways in October.
“It is the very sincere hope of many that this intervention will lead to a sustainable airline that is not a burden to the fiscus,” Mboweni said.
SAA has been a drain on the National Treasury for several years and has racked up losses of more than 32 billion rand over the past decade. The government placed the airline in a local form of bankruptcy protection late last year, and administrators have set about reducing costs by closing routes and considering asset sales.
Mboweni has often stated his reluctance to support SAA while faced with bigger problems such as the $30 billion of debt owed by state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. In Wednesday’s speech he recycled an earlier reference to the airline as a ‘Sword of Damocles’ — or an ever-present threat.
In addition to cash from the Treasury, SAA was last month given access to 3.5 billion rand from the state-owned Development Bank of Southern Africa.