Bad Debt makes AMCON Take Over Aero Contractors

An aero plane

Aero Contractors: flights suspended indefinitely

Simon Ateba

From all indications, Nigeria’s aviation industry has plunged further into crisis with the take over today of Aero Contractors airline by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON.

The 51 year old Aero Contractors airline is one of the four major commercial airlines in Nigeria and the oldest among them. The three others; Dana Air, Air Nigeria and Arik Air are not in the skies. While Air Nigeria has suspended operations for a year on account of bankruptcy, Dana Air has not resumed operation since the 3 June plane crash. Arik Air, which operates the biggest fleet for now, has been grounded by protests. Arik is also heavily indebted to the banks.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had announced earlier today that all credits to Aero should be halted because of its $200 million loan.

“We can confirm that Aero’s debt has been taken over by AMCON. Currently Aero is going through a restructuring exercise under AMCON, pending final approval by AMCON board which is expected very soon,” said Mr. Omoke Enyi, Aero Contractors Chief Financial Officer.

He said the airline is allowed limited access to funds by the banks through AMCON for its working capital.”

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Aero, the preferred airline by multinational oil companies, is Nigeria’s oldest private airline. With the technical support the technical support offered by the Canadian Helicopters Corporation (CHC), the world’s largest commercial helicopter operator, Aero has played a key role in the oil and gas operation in Nigeria.

On its website, Aero, which is based in Lagos, says it operates a “combined fleet of around 20 helicopters and 15 fixed wing aircraft ranging from 50 seat Dash 8 to 144 seat Boeing 737-400/500, employing about 1,300 personnel”.

Aero Contractors of Nigeria was formed in 1959 as a wholly owned by Schreiner Airways B.V of the Netherlands. It became a company with initially 40% Nigerian holding in 1973 and subsequently 60% in 1976.

In January 2004 Schreiner Airways was bought by Canadian Helicopter Corporation(CHC) which acquired 40 per cent holding of Aero contractors while 60 per cent majority share remained within the Ibru family group.

Currently, Aero is wholly owned by the Ibru family and is said to be managed by Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, the disgraced managing director of defunct Oceanic Bank..

The Company started in the early 1960′s as an air charter operator.From this beginning in the 1970′s,Aero has gone-on to provide both rotary and fixed wing services to all the major oil,gas and related support companies working in Nigeria and in West Africa sub-region.

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