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Bidvest buys 20% stake in Comair

Bidvest refuses to say how it got tightly held shares in Comair.

If you speak to institutional investors, they will tell you how hard it is to get Comair shares, so how did Bidvest get such a big chunk of the airline company’s shares?

David Cleasby, financial director at Bidvest refused to say how the company managed to scoop 20% of the airline’s shares or how much it paid for them.

“We are in a closed period and we aren’t going to say much but I can confirm that we did buy 20% of Comair. It is a strategic investment, which gives us exposure to the leisure industry. We had an opportunity to buy and we took it,” he told Moneyweb today.

The news broke on Tuesday and suggested that perhaps the shares became available after British Airways dumped 4% of its stake and founders Dave Novick and former MD Piet van Hoven sold some of their shares.

The radio station said that there were about 50m to 60m shares that were sold in the first half of last year.

According to Sean Miller, an internal auditor at Comair, the company’s management holds the biggest stake at 27%, followed by its black economic empowerment partners (Thelo Consortium) which has 16%, Comair Share Incentive Trust 12,9%, British Airways 12,85%, Allan Gray 11,3%, Oasis 4,8% and Investec 2,5%.

Rhynhard Roodt, an analyst at Investec Asset Management, said that it would have liked to buy more shares but they are tightly held.

“Comair hasn’t made a loss in the 20 years it has been around. For an airline – that’s phenomenal if you look at what’s happened to SAA for instance.

“It drew profit even when oil prices were high – those guys clearly know what they are doing. The guys manage their business well, passenger volumes are growing, the low-cost market is picking up, the oil price is coming down – things are going their way,” Roodt said.

“We would have loved to have more of the company,” he said.

Roodt said Investec knew that there had been a big buyer, and suspected that it was Bidvest.

“The market is quite small – it made sense that it would be Bidvest. Brian Joffe has an eye for good companies,” he said.

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