SAA was in a healthier financial position than it has been in several years and audited results of the year 2022/ 23 would show that the airline had the strongest balance sheet since its last profit declaration in 2011, interim CEO John Lamola said over the weekend.
“Since last year, the airline has been running on financial resources generated from its own operations and management innovations,” he said.
This is in contrast to the presentations to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) last week, where SAA’s external auditors presented their findings on the airline’s financial statements for the past four years, from April 2018 to March 2022.
Media reports on these presentations had painted a SAA marred by poor management and an uncertain future.
“The Auditor-General’s report covers SAA’s financials during the state capture years, and not its current cash positive and post-business rescue conditions,” said Lamola.
He said the management and the board that has been installed since SAA emerged out of business rescue and started operations late 2021, would disprove any claim the financial position of SAA was currently at a breaking point, said Lamola.
“The recent financial year 2022/2023 is still being audited and the formal tabling of the audited financial statements to Parliament, where the details of the structure of this public entity’s financials will be revealed, is yet to take place,” he said.
He said the airline, under the insistence of its shareholder representative, had put controls and policies in place to avoid a repeat of the years of financial mismanagement, and to ensure compliance of the Public Finance Management Act.
“The airline is on an expansion drive, and in the market for more aircraft and is pursuing a plan to add more international routes to its network,” he said.
In the past month SAA had added its first intercontinental flight to São Paulo, and an additional regional destination to Abidjan.
Last week the opening of the Gqeberha route from December 13, 2023 was announced. The next interoceanic route was expected be announced at the start of 2024.
SAA was also adding jobs it had shed during the business rescue restructuring, he said.
In the first six months the airlines’ expansion had hit a snag due to the worldwide shortage of aircraft following the Covid pandemic global supply chain constraints. To mitigate this, temporarily unbranded aircraft were deployed ahead of the permanent long-term acquisitions that were being pursued.
“Even against the historical negative performance of the years reported at SCOPA, the Auditor General could declare that SAA is a going concern, able to pay its liabilities as they became due,” said Lamola.
He said SAA had a medium-term strategy that envisaged the airline being further strengthened by investment and business transformation from the private equity partner, Takatso Aviation.
“It is planned that until this transaction is concluded, the resized SAA will continue to defend and grow its market share and thrive financially,” he said.