Africa is poised to get its first
continent-wide discount air services after industrial group
Lonrho Plc (LAF) engaged EasyJet Plc (EZJ) founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou to
help transform its aviation arm into a low-cost carrier.
Fastjet will employ operating licenses held by Lonrho’s
Fly540 unit to establish flights in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and
Angola using a fleet of Airbus SAS A319 airliners or Embraer E-
190 regional jets, Ed Winter, who will run its holding company,
Rubicon Diversified Investments Plc (RUBI), said in an interview.
A rise in GDP and consumer spending means Africa is ready
to support a discount carrier of the kind that has transformed
aviation elsewhere, said Winter, who has worked at EasyJet and
British Airways. Like carriers from Southwest Airlines Co. in
the U.S. to Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd., Fastjet aims to create a
new market by offering fares low enough to persuade some people
to fly for the first time and others to travel more, he said.
“The African aviation market is significantly under-served
and there are massive opportunities,” Winter said, adding that
Fastjet will be a “low-cost, point-to-point, no-frills, all-jet
airline operating to European standards of safety and quality.”
The four markets to be targeted by Fastjet all have large-
scale oil or gas developments, from which wealth is beginning to
trickle down to a growing middle class, the executive said.
Demand will led by visits to friends and relatives, given
Africa’s highly mobile workforce, the executive said, though
short breaks of the kind that have spurred bookings at EasyJet
and Ryanair Holdings Plc (RYA) in Europe are becoming popular to
destinations such as Mombassa and Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean.
Under the plan, Rubicon, an investment shell created from a
former software company, will buy Lonrho Aviation, which runs
Fly540, in an all-stock deal valuing the unit at $85.7 million.
The reverse takeover will give Lonrho 73.7 percent of shares in
Rubicon, which began trading on London’s