ADDIS ABABA, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Ethiopian Airlines said on Tuesday it had signed an agreement with the Zambian government to relaunch the southern African country’s national carrier, which was shut down more than two decades ago.
Ethiopia’s state-owned flag carrier, ranked by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as the largest airline in Africa by revenue and profit, is in talks with a number of airline companies across the continent to acquire stakes and manage operations.
Ethiopian Airlines said on Tuesday said it had struck a deal with shareholders of Zambia Airways and had acquired a 45 percent stake in the firm. It did not disclose how much it had paid for the stake.
“The airline (Zambia Airways) is meant to initially serve national and regional destinations before embarking on international flights,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.
State-owned Zambia Airways went into liquidation in 1994.
The privately-owned Zambian Airways then emerged as the country’s main carrier with flights to other major hubs in southern Africa, but it suspended operations in 2009.
Ethiopian Airlines operates and manages Malawi Airlines through a deal signed in 2013. It also has a deal with ASKY, a West African airline whose shareholders include the ECOWAS regional bloc of countries and a number of banks.
The airline’s revenue rose 10.3 percent to 54.5 billion birr ($2.43 billion) in the 2015/16 fiscal year, while passenger numbers climbed 18 percent to 7.6 million. Net profit was up 70 percent at 6 billion birr.
Ethiopian Airlines wants to increase revenue to $10 billion by 2025 and to expand its fleet to 140 aircraft from less than 90 now, with its sights set on Asia. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Gareth Jones)