For the first time in world history, about 90% of the world’s citizens have been restricted from travelling, either to return home or to destinations of choice. Without a doubt, the most affected in travel & tourism is the aviation industry.
An estimated 25 million aviation jobs and 100 million travel and tourism jobs across the globe are at risk. That is not all; the growth recorded in the industry in the last seven years would potentially be lost across the world.
Coming back home, in Nigeria, most of the local airlines have either forced their workers to embark on unpaid leave, slashed salaries or dismissed their workforce. This is how Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought the global and Nigerian aviation to a standstill.
But will Nigeria ever fly again?
Experts at the Institute of Directors’ webinar titled “Impact of COVID-19 on Aviation Sector: The Way forward” which was covered by Nairametrics, emphasized that Nigeria would fly again, but things would not be the same. According to them, the pandemic would birth “a new normal” in the aviation industry.
At the webinar, which was moderated by the immediate past President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), the experts that were selected across the industry agreed that the new normal would be challenging but must be adhered if the industry must survive the outbreak.
Even if borders reopened, Managing Director, Aero Contractor Airline, Captain Aso Sanusi, explained that travellers must trust that boarding a plane was safe and that they would be able to enter the destination country.
The most immediate and perhaps most visible change the industry will witness is social distancing or touchless travel.
“Shortly before the total lockdown, we had implemented the social distancing policy and that took a lot of time. We witnessed a lot of delays because we had to ensure passengers keep safe distances at the point check-in in order to curb the spread of the virus. But physical distance policy in the aircraft will not be possible. That will not happen.”
“Passengers will have to be fit to travel, as the Yellow cards will be substituted for COVID-19 card. Passengers must arrive earlier than they used to at the airport and definitely expect more delay. The old normal turn around for local will increase from 30 minutes to over 1 hour (new normal) because aircraft will be sanitized every time the plane land.”
According to him, there would also be panic at the airport or in an aircraft if certain things happened. For instance, if anyone sneezed, others would panic. “We will have to work hard to psychologically educate the passengers that the aircraft is the safest place to be,” he added.
Country Manager, Nigeria & West Africa, Qatar Airways, Kennedy Chirchir, also agreed that the new normal of the industry would mean a total paradigm shift.
To him, the development would affect airline preparations, check-in preparations together with how agencies interacted with customers and airlines.
He said, “We are moving to the digital space where physical interaction would be reduced drastically. Most of the operations will be on a digital platform. There will be more requirements in terms of the turnaround of aircraft. Before now, it takes about 1 hour for aircraft to turnaround but now it may take as long as 2 or 3 hours because there would be stricter checks. These will happen but will not stop people from travelling.”
On the part of travel agencies, Managing Director, BTM Travels Limited, Lola Adefope, explained that the adoption of technology would be emphasized. Before this, she insisted that it was important for operators and regulatory authorities to ensure that right policies and processes were in place to drive the technology, else the nation would be placing the cart before the horse.
“What we need to do is to implement a proper education process and platform. That is to ensure people understand the risk of travel and the safety measures in place with the technology to support the process. The technology will push notifications to people directly.
“We are going to see a move to much smaller groups when it comes to actual leisure travel. Leisure travel won’t develop at the international scene immediately but we have to develop domestic tourism. We must put in place policies and processes before we open our borders for intercontinental or international tourism,” she said.
According to the BTM boss, the nation would witness a change from long distance travels, as air travellers would do more research to know about where they were going before embarking on trips, and more emphasis would be on careful travel. “The new products that will be sold in the new normal are health, safety and compliance and not comfort and leisure that was the focus in pre-COVID-19,” she added.
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Executive Chairman, Phillips Consulting, Foluso Phillips, expected the new normal to birth new digital skills that would grow the aviation industry. He said the development would lead to job losses, because some people’s services would no longer be required with the advent of technology.
According to him, it is obvious that the Federal and State Governments are saddled with bigger responsibilities of public safety, decay in education sector and Nigerians should expect them to be fully involved in implementing the desired turnaround needed in the sector. He said,
“We need to privatise airports and have extremely sophisticated airports. There is no magic silver bullet, we have to try and engage the people and restore their confidence in the sector. These are the real things we must face.
“Let us lessen the burdens of the government. That for me is the new norm. How can we bring confidence to people? People should be able to say, ‘I want to go on vacation, as I now have confidence in the system.’”
Meanwhile, IoD organized the webinar to offer a guide that would cause the aviation sector to rebound. Bankole said, “It is important to debate and discuss these current realities and emerging trends that will shape the future world of travel. With the need for social distancing and stringent health measures that have been put in place by all responsible Governments, the cost of operations, if and when the airlines operate again, may be daunting.”
UACN’s major shareholder sells substantial shares
This is coming a few days after UAC Nigeria Plc announced a deal to divest 51% of its shares in UPDC.
One of the 3 major shareholders of UAC Nigeria Plc (UACN), Blakeney LLP, has substantially reduced its stakes in the conglomerate with the sale of 80 million additional shares.
This was disclosed in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) by UAC Nigeria Plc. The notification was signed by the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Godwin Samuel.
Note that this is coming a few days after UAC Nigeria Plc announced a deal to divest 51% of its shares in UACN Petroleum Development Company (UPDC) to Custodian Investment Plc.
An analysis of this current sales and reduction of its stake shows that Blakeney LLP reduced its shareholding in the conglomerate through a deal on August 5, at a price of N5.75 per share. A further breakdown of the transactions shows that the 80,000,000 units were sold at N5.75 amounting to N460 million in purchase consideration.
Back Story: It can be recalled that UACN had earlier sent notifications to the NSE announcing sales of 75 million shares by Blakeney between the months of April and June
- In an earlier notification sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange and other stakeholders in February 2019, UAC of Nigeria Plc announced the emergence of three major shareholders with more than 5% stake in the company. The three major shareholders include Themis Capital Management (8.08%), Stanbic IBTC Nominees Limited (7.27%), Blakeney GP 111 Ltd (7.55%).
- Nigeria’s oldest conglomerate has gone through some major restructuring in recent times following investments by these core investors and other major shareholders. In September 2019, UACN announced the outright dissolution of its interest and restructuring of UAC Property Development Company (UPDC) with the transfer of its interest directly to the shareholders.
- Over the years, UACN has transformed from a very large conglomerate with footprints in different sectors of the economy to a leaner organization with interest in Manufacturing, Food & Beverage, Logistics, Agro-allied Industry, Paints and Chemicals.
- Blakeney Management is one of the oldest and largest institutional investors in Africa and the Middle East. They are based in London and have been managing funds since 1995 for some of the largest institutions in the world.
AXA Mansard insurance divests from AXA Mansard pension as new owner emerges
This disclosure was made in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
AXA Mansard Insurance Plc has announced its divestment from its subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pension Limited, after agreeing to sell its stake to Eustacia Limited, a member of the Verod Group.
This is part of the insurance firm’s plan to focus on and grow its insurance businesses across all parts of the country.
This disclosure was made in a notification that was sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on August 8, 2020, by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and signed by its Company Secretary, Mrs Omowunmi Mabel Adewusi.
AXA Mansard Insurance disclosed that Eustacia Limited was selected as the preferred bidder, after the completion of a bid process. AXA Mansard along with the minority shareholder agreed to sell the entire issued ordinary share capital of AXA Mansard Pensions comprising of 60% shareholding (2,067,672,000 shares) held by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and 40% shareholding (1,378,448,000 shares) held by the minority shareholder.
The statement from AXA Mansard Insurance reads, ‘’AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announces the divestment from its subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pensions Limited. After obtaining the Shareholder’s approval at the Company’s Extra-Ordinary General Meeting held on the 13th of February 2020, the Company commenced the process of divestment by appointing Messer Rand Merchant Bank as the Financial Advisers while Aluko & Oyebode acted as the Legal Advisers on the transaction.’’
‘’Upon completion of a bid process, Eustacia Limited (a member of the Verod Group) was selected as the preferred bidder. The Company along with the minority Shareholder entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Eustacia Limited to divest the entire issued ordinary share capital of AXA Mansard Pensions comprising of 60% shareholding (2,067,672,000 shares) held by AXA Mansard Insurance Plc and 40% shareholding (1,378,448,000 shares) held by the minority shareholder.’’
The insurance firm, also in its statement said that the divestment has received letters of no objection from the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).
It should be noted that the completion of the divestment is, however, subject to the receipt of the final approval of the National Pension Commission.
In his reaction, the CEO of AXA Mansard Insurance Plc, Kunle Ahmed, said that this transaction marks a new step in the insurance firm’s broader strategy to focus on and grow their life, property & casualty and health businesses across all its geographies. He said that the AXA Group sees great potential in the Nigerian insurance market and believes they are ideally placed to capture these opportunities due to its market leadership position.
On his part, the CEO of AXA Mansard Pension Limited said that they are confident about Verod’s strong commitment to providing the company with the requisite support to actualize their promise to its clients and stakeholders.
A partner at Verod Group, the new owners, Eric Idiahi, said, ‘’We strongly believe that this is the ideal time to enter the market and that AXA Mansard Pensions provides an excellent beachhead from which to establish a consolidated position and gain market share.’’
Nairametrics reported early this year that AXA Mansard Insurance Plc announced that its shareholders have approved the company’s plan to sell its pension management subsidiary, AXA Mansard Pensions Ltd and some undisclosed real estate investments.
Africa’s largest telecoms firm, MTN, to divest from its Middle East operations
The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder.
Africa’s largest telecoms firm, the MTN Group, has announced its plans to exit the Middle East. This is part of the wireless carrier’s strategic plan to shift focus entirely to its home continent, Africa.
The mobile operator said that as part of its medium-term strategy, it will be leaving the Middle East, starting with the sales of its 75% stake in MTN Syria. Overly reduced revenue from war-torn Syria and the complex nature of the operating environment in the country are part of the reasons MTN is divesting.
MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, noted during a conference call with reporters, that “the Middle East environment is becoming increasingly complex and it contributes less to the group’s earnings.’’
Shuter disclosed that the disposals in the Middle East region will be done in a phased manner, with its 3 consolidated subsidiaries in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria earmarked to be sold first. These markets only contribute about 4% to the group’s earnings before interest, depreciation, taxation, and amortization.
The MTN Group is in advanced talks to sell its stake in MTN Syria to the minority shareholder, TeleInvest, who has 25% stake in the firm, according to the CEO. He believes that the telecoms firm is better served to focus on its Pan-African strategy and simplify its portfolio by leaving the Middle East region in an orderly manner.
In the medium term, the group will also dispose of its 49% stake in MTN Irancell, one of its largest markets.
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The South African firm plans to exit the entire portfolio in time, which will then leave it with 17 subsidiaries in Africa.
Just yesterday, Nairametrics reported about MTN’s plan to sell its stake in Jumia Technologies. MTN will also be divesting from telecommunications infrastructure firm, IHS Towers. The divestments from Jumia and IHS Towers were informed by the decision to raise funds in order to reduce MTN’s debts. It will also help the company to refocus its operations.