Mozambique: Airport Company Urged to Renegotiate Debts

Maputo — Mozambican Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita on Thursday urged the country's publicly owned airports company, ADM, to continue negotiations with its creditors in order to reprogramme its debt payments, and meet to the full its obligations.

Speaking at an ADM meeting, held to draw up the balance sheet of the company's performance in the first six months of the year, Mesquita said the company's indebtedness was worrying, but ADM managers should face the problem with calm and responsibility.

Despite the debts, he guaranteed that ADM remains a viable company, and will continue to play its role for the development of civil aviation in Mozambique.

According to a report in Friday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax", the main debt is about 17 billion meticais (around 274 million dollars).

On top of this, ADM owes 820 million meticais to "Nosso Banco" ("Our Bank"), a tiny bank that collapsed in 2016. The Bank of Mozambique ordered its dissolution and liquidation when it became clear that it could not meet its obligations.

Nosso Banco had been in deep trouble long before the central bank ordered it to stop trading. Nobody has yet explained why ADM was doing business with Nosso Banco.

Two and a half years after Nosso Banco was closed, the liquidation commission is still chasing the extinct bank's debtors, including ADM. With no sign of ADM paying up, the liquidation commission took the matter to court, demanding payment within a year. The Maputo City Court sided with the Commission, and ordered that ADM's accounts be frozen.

This situation obliged ADM to take out a loan in June, just so that it could pay its workers their wages.

Part of ADM's debt was incurred in building an international airport at the northern city of Nacala, with a loan from the Brazilian bank, BNDES, of around 200 million dollars. The Nacala airport was inaugurated in 2014 by the then President Armando Guebuza - but in the ensuing five years very few commercial flights have used it. The airport has been running at four per cent of its capacity, leading to huge losses for ADM.

Until this year, the only company regularly using Nacala was Mozambique Airlines (LAM). However, the general manager of the airport, Jose Candrinho, told reporters that he believed the situation is improving. LAM has increased the number of flights that stop at Nacala, and a second domestic company, Ethiopian Mozambique Airways, began using the airport this year.

The ADM chairperson, Emanuel Neves, hoped that Nacala will begin to receive international flights this year. But this is because he has revived the idea of reducing the number of international airports in the country to just three - Maputo, Beira and Nacala.

This would mean an end to international flights to such tourist centres as Pemba and Vilankulo. Since this could deal a crushing blow to Mozambican tourism, it is unlikely to happen.

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