Indications have emerged that Ethiopian Airlines may acquire Arik Air, which is currently being managed by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.
The Managing Director of International Services, Ethiopian Airlines, Esayas WoldeMariam, was quoted by the CNN on Thursday to have said that the airline had submitted a formal offer to take over the carrier.
“We have outlined our terms and conditions to the Nigerian government and we are waiting to see if they agree. We are capable and desirous of handling the airline,” WoldeMariam said.
The report also quoted Godfrey Odudigbo of the Nigerian embassy in Addis Ababa as saying that negotiations over Arik could be concluded by the end of the year.
But sources within AMCON and the Ministry of Aviation said they were not aware of the development.
One of the sources told our correspondent that there had been no confirmation from any government agency since the news broke and that the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had said that he was unaware of Ethiopian Airlines’ bid for Arik’s management.
“There is no confirmation from any government agency; the minister says he is not aware of the development, AMCON says it is not aware either. If the major stakeholders are not aware, then who did Ethiopian Airlines approach for the takeover?” the source said.
Few weeks after the takeover of Arik in February, it was reported that Ethiopian Airlines rejected offer by AMCON to invest in Arik.
A government source was quoted to have attributed the rejection to the huge debt profile of the airline.
The Arik’s founder, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, was also quoted to have said the plan by the government to have Ethiopian Airlines manage Arik had failed, and that he would sue the East African airline if it tried to take over Arik.
The Federal Government, through AMCON, took over the operations of Arik, the nation’s biggest carrier, in February, and appointed Capt. Roy Ukpebo Ilegbodu as its new manager.
The airline is said to be indebted to the tune of over N300bn, with AMCON alone owed N135bn; while its obligations to aviation fuel suppliers, insurance firms, aircraft maintenance organisations, the Federal Government and the various aviation agencies, as well as food vendors made up the balance.