AMCON May Wind Down Investment At Aero Contractors | Independent Newspapers Nigeria

LAGOS – There are strong indica­tions that the Asset Man­agement Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) may be winding down its operations at Aero Contractors, the airline it took over 100 percent of its man­agement in 2016.

A source close to AMCON confided in Daily Independent on Wednesday that the corporation had been making frantic efforts to get strong investors, locally and foreign, to buy at least 51 percent of gov­ernment’s holdings in the troubled carrier. ­

This is as Capt. Ado Sa­nusi, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), stepped down from the position on December 29, 2020, and a replacement announced immediately.

Daily Independent in­vestigation on Wednesday revealed that AMCON had held several meetings with some investors on how they could divest the govern­ment’s investment in the airline.

But it was not clear as at the time of filing this report if the corporation had made any headway in its plan.

Investigation revealed that no fewer than three investors had met with AM­CON in the past six months to acquire Aero Contractors.

The source expressed optimism that the winding down of AMCON’s invest­ment in Aero Contractors would happen “very soon.”

The source said: “As it is, AMCON is trying to wind down at Aero Contractors. This is going to happen very soon. AMCON intends to sell 51 percent of its shares in Aero.

“However, we don’t mind if AMCON sells its shares in the airline. What we want is for a new lease of life to re­turn to Aero. We want a vi­able Aero Contractors that will be able to employ thou­sands of workers.”

Also, Capt. Sanusi last December 29, 2020, stepped down as the CEO of Aero Contractors after almost four years in the saddle.

A source close to the air­line confided in Daily Inde­pendent that Sanusi’s ap­pointment as a CEO in Aero had elapsed about six months ago, but was renewed for an­other six months by AMCON.

However, after the expira­tion of the six months peri­od, the appointment was not renewed by the corporation, which led to suspicion that the former CEO might be given a higher portfolio by AMCON, having been satis­fied with his performance in office.

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AMCON also immediately announced Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, the former Chief Pilot, Arik Air, as the sub­stantive CEO for Aero Con­tractors.

The source said: “Sanusi’s contract was extended by six months after the expiration of the initial tenure. His ten­ure elapsed and was not re­newed. He already knew the contract won’t be renewed, but he already knew that the appointment would not be re­newed. I believe he prepared for it.

“The last meeting we had with the management in late December was more or less a valedictory meeting. I be­lieve AMCON management was satisfied with his (Sa­nusi) performance because Sanusi was very diplomatic as a CEO.

“However, I think there may be another opening for him, but everyone was sat­isfied with his performance in office. Even, the unions were satisfied with his per­formance. It is just that he took some decisions without carrying the unions along.”

Besides, it was gathered that the unions would next Tuesday hold a meeting with the new management on the redundancy issue in the air­line.

But Jude Nwauzor, Head, Corporate Communications, AMCON, debunked the re­port that the corporation wanted to wind down its in­vestment in the airline.

Speaking with our corre­spondent on phone, Nwau­zor insisted that if AMCON intended to wind down, it would not have appointed a replacement for Sanusi, stressing that rather, the cor­poration intended to expand its investment in the nation’s aviation industry.

He also explained that AMCON was satisfied with Sanusi’s performance and would give him a higher po­sition soon.

He said: “No, we are not winding down. The situa­tion is that there is a change of guard at the airline. Capt. Sanusi will be redeployed for further assignment by AM­CON. There was a town hall meeting to that effect.

“If we were winding down at Aero, we won’t ap­point someone to replace him. It is just business of restructuring and restrat­egising. We are planning to consider other aviation investments. This is being discussed. I am sure he will be deployed to handle that assignment because of his wealth of experience.”

Recall that AMCON had in February 2016 dissolved the board of Aero Contrac­tors Airlines and appointed a manager to oversee the dai­ly affairs of the airline. AM­CON was both the majority shareholder and creditor of Aero as at then.

Mr. Ahmed Kuru, the Managing Director, AM­CON, had in 2019, also canvassed for the Federal Government to reform the aviation sector and turn the two airlines under its receiv­ership, Arik and Aero, into a national carrier.

According to him, hav­ing retrieved Arik from the brink of collapse and re­structured and positioned it on the path of growth and profitability, Kuru said the time was now for the Nation­al Assembly to ensure that the government leverages Arik Airline as a stepping stone towards setting up a national carrier, rather than trying to set up a new air­line brand from the scratch, which he argued, would cost the government a fortune, especially in the face of the nation’s tight budget.

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But Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, had dismissed the call for the two airlines to be made a na­tional carrier by the Federal Government.

He insisted that the two airlines, especially Arik Air, were not suitable for a national carrier.

He had said: “I think something is not under­stood very well from the standpoint of the Ministry of Aviation via the intended national carrier. The carrier that I intend to bring is such a carrier that will support the national economy, with $450 million Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 200 mil­lion people, very equipped to compete favourably.”

Read the Source post on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.