Comair found itself in the High Court in Pretoria earlier this month over allegations that it didn’t comply with South Africa’s restrictions on foreign ownership and, if found guilty, could see the airline losing its licence to fly.
In 2014, FlySafair laid a complaint against Comair for non-compliance with the Licensing Act in terms of foreign ownership, which states that the maximum percentage of voting rights allowed by foreigners on domestic airlines is 25%. While Safair withdrew its complaint, the Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) pursued the matter.
The matter was brought before the High Court on March 10. However, according to a report in Moneyweb, the court was told that the allegations against Comair were based on a misunderstanding.
The ASLC mistakenly thought that fund manager, Allan Gray, who is a natural person living in Bermuda, invested in Comair. However, the foundation, Allan Gray, owns 26% of Comair.
The council based its case on an analysis of 26% shareholding of Comair by BB Investments. They say that a portion of BB Investments’ shareholding should be classified as foreign, because BB Investments is 100%-owned by Bidvest; 46% of Bidvest’s shareholders are foreign and by applying that percentage to BB Investments, the council says Comair’s total foreign shareholding is above the legal limit.
However, Advocate for Comair, Mike van der Nest, says Bidvest’s shareholders do not own the assets of Bidvest or any of its subsidiaries. They merely own shares in Bidvest, a South African company, and that it is incorrect to apply Bidvest’s foreign shareholding directly to BB Investment.
A spokesperson for Comair told Tourism Update that Judge Joseph Raulinga had reserved judgement on the matter, and the ASLC has been interdicted from suspending Comair’s air services licence until the matter has been finalised.
“No specific timeframe has been provided on when a judgement is to be handed down,” the spokesperson said.