Fastjet signs provisional agreement to buy 1time

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Fastjet has signed an option agreement giving it the right to purchase the entire issued share capital of South Africa's provisionally liquidated 1time Airline for the token sum of 1 rand ($0.12).

The startup low-cost carrier is not obliged to exercise the option, and any such purchase will be contingent on the resolution of discussions between regulators, 1time's court-appointed liquidator and its creditors.

If the option is exercised, Fastjet chief executive Ed Winter says 1time will aim to resume operations in early 2013 with "up to three" of the 12 aircraft formerly in its fleet.

"The initial routes are all domestic routes serving the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London," Fastjet says in a statement.

1time's fuel-inefficient fleet of Boeing MD-82s, MD-83s and MD-87s was widely blamed for the failure of its business model, and Fastjet would re-fleet the carrier with Airbus A319s "in due course".

The 1time brand would subsequently be wound down and replaced by that of its new parent company, mirroring the gradual closure of Fastjet's sister carrier Fly540 in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana and Angola.

"The acquisition of 1time supports Fastjet's growth into a pan-African low-cost carrier, and the synergies with Fastjet's existing operations will potentially increase the number of available route networks from South Africa into the rest of Africa," Winter adds.

Fastjet launched operations in Dar es Salaam in November 2012, initially serving the domestic Tanzanian routes of Mwanza and Kilimanjaro.

Prior to confirming its interest in South Africa, the Stelios Haji-Ioannou-backed carrier had said it will open its second operating base in Nairobi, Kenya in the first quarter of 2013.