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Tunisair May Sell Stake as Country Divests Assets (Update2)

 

By Mahmoud Kassem

 

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Tunisair, the national airline of Tunisia, may sell a 15 percent stake as the North African country disposes of state assets amid an equities boom.

 

``We might sell more shares to a strategic investor, but the government will always want to hold a controlling stake,'' Adel Gaida, chief financial officer of Tunisair, or Societe Tunisienne de l'Air, said in an interview yesterday in London. ``We have been thinking of doing this for some time, though we don't have a timetable.''

 

Tunisia is selling assets to attract investment as buyers, particularly from the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, pour money into a country that isn't on emerging-market equity indexes and is commonly classed as a ``frontier market.'' Tunisia's main stock index, the Tunindex, has advanced 13 percent this year, making it the best-performing index in North Africa.

 

Tunisair rose 0.8 percent to 4.05 dinars in Tunis trading as of 11:50 a.m. The stock has gained 6.6 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 329 million Tunisian dinars ($278 million). The airline serves more than 50 destinations in 25 countries and carried 3.5 million passengers last year. The government holds 74 percent.

 

Companies on the Tunindex have one of the cheapest average price-to-earnings ratios in the Middle East at 13 times estimated earnings. The Dow Jones Arabia Titans 50 Index, a measure of 50 Arab stocks in 10 countries, trades at 21 times estimated earnings.

 

The Tunisian government raised as much as $2.25 billion from the sale of a 35 percent stake in Telecom Tunisie, the country's largest telephone company, in 2006.

 

Tunisair Expansion

 

Tunisair is expanding in Africa and adding trans-Atlantic and Asian destinations, Gaida said. The carrier owns a 51 percent stake in Air Mauritania, which it formed as a joint venture in December 2006. Air France-KLM Group has a 5.6 percent stake in Tunisair, while 20 percent of shares trade freely.

 

``We are planning to add New York, Montreal, Beijing and Tokyo on our list of destinations, but that won't happen until we get our new fleet starting from 2011 because we would need A350s for the long haul,'' Gaida said. The airline's primary business is flying vacationers from Europe to beaches in Tunis.

Airbus SAS, the world's largest planemaker, said on April 29 that Tunisair agreed to a 16-plane order valued at as much as $2 billion at list prices. Tunisia plans to acquire three twin- aisle A350-800 airliners, three A330-200s and 10 single-aisle A320s from the Toulouse, France-based manufacturer.

 

``We prefer to stick to one manufacturer because it saves us costs in maintenance,'' Gaida said. ``We will pay 10 percent of the cost of the new Airbuses and the remainder we will seek credit for.''

 

Tunisair's revenue rose 12 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period a year ago. The company may distribute a dividend on 2007 profit this year, Gaida said.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Mahmoud Kassem in London at [email protected]

Last Updated: June 5, 2008 06:06 EDT

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aXYjvLDxX8pg

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Jordanian should add more planes to Montreal, its always booked, i'm trying to book something for Syria and its very hard to get anything :(

 

Its 11 hours straight to Amman, an hour wait, then another short 1h to either Damascus or Aleppo, very convienient to lots of Syrians.

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Jordanian should add more planes to Montreal, its always booked, i'm trying to book something for Syria and its very hard to get anything :(

 

Its 11 hours straight to Amman, an hour wait, then another short 1h to either Damascus or Aleppo, very convienient to lots of Syrians.

 

Did you consider Aeroflot from Toronto ? I know it's probably much longuer since you have to go trought Toronto and Moscow but the one time I use them, I had a very good experience. The planes were a little bit old but service was very good. There were a girl sitting beside me on the plane and she told me it was the cheapest way for her to get to Iran. And if you don't want to go trought Toronto, Transaero has direct flight Montreal-Moscow from time to time and them from Moscow I guess there are direct flight to Syria, just make sure you arrive and leave at the same airport in Moscow (there are many) since you need a visa to exit the airport.

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