Passengers board a South African Airways plane at the Port Elizabeth International Airport in the Eastern Cape province

South African Airways to pay Comair $78 mln to settle competition case

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - State-run South African Airways (SAA) will pay its rival Comair 1.1 billion rand ($78 million) to settle an anti-competition case, sending shares in the local aviation company soaring.

Struggling SAA has not made a profit since 2011 and was given a 5 billion rand bailout by government last year to shore up its balance sheet.

It is one of a handful of state firms cited by credit ratings agencies as a major risk to the sovereign rating of Africa's most industrialised economy.

The dispute between Comair and SAA dates back more than a decade. SAA's travel agent incentive schemes were deemed anti-competitive by a competition body, paving the way for a damages claim by Comair.

Comair said in a statement on Friday that SAA would start making payments to it from this month until July 2022, unless SAA decides to pay the full amount earlier.

Comair operates flights in southern Africa under a licence from British Airways and launched low-cost airline kulula.com.

Its shares closed up more than 20 percent at 5.55 rand on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

SAA's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 14.1261 rand)

(Reporting by Alexander Winning, editing by Louise Heavens)

2019-02-16 10:18:02

© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.