Ethiopian Air Seeks Africa Dominance With New Carriers, Jet Deal

Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise plans to establish half a dozen international offshoots before the end of the year as Africa’s biggest carrier steps up efforts to dominate markets across the continent.

Ethiopian will take equity stakes in new operators in Zambia, Chad, Mozambique and Guinea while helping to manage existing carriers in Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam said in an interview.

Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg

The company, which has turned Addis Ababa into Africa’s equivalent of the Persian Gulf hubs, linking almost 70 global cities with close to 60 across the continent, already owns stakes in Malawi Airlines in the south and Togo-based Asky Airlines in the west. The new initiatives are aimed at consolidating its lead over rivals Kenya Airways Plc and state-owned South African Airways.

Ethiopia’s change of prime minister last month after almost three years of unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions won’t impact the carrier, Tewolde said by phone, with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front “definitely” continuing to back its expansionist strategy.

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Regional Jets

The airline plans to buy new regional jets in the next month or so, having narrowed its choice to Bombardier Inc.’s C Series and Embraer SA’s E2-family E195. Boeing Co.’s 737 Max 7 is now out of the running for the contract, which could feature 10 firm orders and the same number of options, the CEO said. There are no more pressing fleet requirements, though the carrier could decide to add more Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus SE A350s, he said.

Ethiopian Airlines agreed in January to take a 45 percent stake in the new Zambia Airways, with flights likely to start in October, and has signed an outline accord to establish new national carrier Chad Airlines with a 49 percent holding, Tewolde said. The company will own all of the planned Ethiopia Mozambique Airlines and 49 percent of Guinea Airlines, he said.

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