Addis Ababa (Reuters) Indications that Ethiopian Airlines is the frontrunner to set up and manage Nigeria’s new national carrier, Nigeria Air, emerged on Friday as the Chief Executive of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, told a news conference that, “We are among a small group with an interest in establishing a national carrier (in Nigeria) …we do not know the results (of the tender), though we are frontrunners.”



The state-owned carrier has outpaced regional competitors Kenya Airways and South African Airways to become Africa’s largest airline by revenue and profit, according to the International Air Transport Association.



The airline has been buying shares in other African airlines, a strategy aimed at gaining a competitive advantage against rivals such as those in the Gulf.



Ethiopian Airlines already has contracts for maintenance work with two Nigeria-based carriers, Arik Air and Medview Airline, he said. In May, Tewolde told Reuters that the airline was in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures.



It aimed to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own, the chief executive said at the time. In June, Ethiopia said it would open its and other firms including the telecoms monopoly up to private domestic and foreign investment, but details have not yet been made public.




Tewolde also said that net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to Sh23.3 billion from Sh22.9 billion the previous year. Ethiopia’s 2017/18 financial year ended last month. The airline’s operating revenue rose by 43 per cent to Sh370 billion in the 2017/18 financial year.

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