South Africa’s Mango Remains Stuck In Airline Limbo

South African low-cost carrier Mango remains in airline limbo after 84% of creditors voted in favor of an amended business rescue plan. But the carrier doesn’t yet have the funding to resume flying – and there is no guarantee it will.

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South Africa’s Mango remains in limbo without funding to resume flights. Photo: PublicDomainPictures.net

In late October, sole shareholder South African Airways (SAA) confirmed it was not in a position to, nor did it want to provide further funding to get Mango back into the air.

Since then, SAA has agreed to make an equity injection of just over US$45 million and surrender its shareholding to the South African Government. Given SAA is a state-owned airline, not much is really changing there.

The amended rescue plan reveals what Mango owes

The amended business rescue plan reveals Mango owes SAA around US$19.8 million. SAA’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul subsidiary, SAA Technical, is owed US$50.3 million. That might explain why SAA resisted pumping more cash into Mango since it stopped flying in July.

Overall, over half of Mango’s US$163 million-plus debt is owed to South African state-owned enterprises or agencies. SAA may have agreed to tip in some more money, but they are sticking to their previous condition – Mango cannot resume flying on SAA’s cash.

The upshot is much of the money SAA gives to Mango is likely to be returned to SAA as partial payment of monies owing.

However, given SAA never passed on the bulk of the US$51 million in emergency funding the South African Government gave Mango earlier this year, SAA’s track record in meeting its commitments to Mango isn’t blue chip.

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Overall, Mango’s owes its creditors more than US$163 million. Photo: Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons

Out of work employees likely to get paid

The administrators shepherding Mango through the business rescue process want to find a private investor to buy the airline or, in business-speak, “a strategic equity partner.” But that may be easier said than done.

“They hope to have interested parties in place before the end of March,” Jordan Butler,  chair of the Mango Pilots’ Association, told South Africa’s Sunday Times.  One likely contender, the Takatso Consortium, who bought 51% of SAA earlier this year, has already said they are not interested.

Jordan Butler is one of Mango’s 708 employees out of work and collectively owed just shy of US$10 million, including outstanding salaries, leave and other entitlements owed. Salaries through to September 30 have been paid in full. Salaries over October have been 50% paid. But salaries since then remain wholly unpaid.

In a bit of good news, outstanding monies owed to employees are expected to be paid shortly. This week, the administrators received just over US$20 million from the South African Government to pay employee entitlements.

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Mango’s 708 employees are currently out of work and owed money. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

Four aircraft lessors collectively owed US$41 million

Just over 84% of all creditors voted to accept the amended rescue plan. It needed a 75% majority to pass. South African business news outlet MoneyWeb has a handy breakdown of who is owed what. SAA Technical is the biggest creditor, followed by Lufthansa Technik AG (owed US$18.75 million) and Macquarie Aircraft Leasing (owed US$18.3 million).

Mango flew five Boeing 737-800s, and all were leased. In addition to Macquarie, three other lessors are on the hook for a total of US$41 million. They include Start Ireland Leasing who is owed US$8.8 million, GE Capital Aviation who is owed US$8.4 million, and Aergen Aircraft Five Limited, who is owed US$5.3 million.

The administrator, Sipho Sono, says he is reasonably confident a white knight will come to Mango’s rescue. But if this doesn’t happen, the amended rescue package voted through will facilitate a better outcome for creditors than simply liquidating the airline.

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