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Morocco Seeks Suitors for Royal Air; Carrier Plans Jet Purchases

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Morocco’s state-owned Royal Air Maroc should forge a strategic partnership that may involve the sale of a stake, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Aziz Rabbah said,

Royal Air Maroc, or RAM, also plans to purchase as many as 20 medium-haul aircraft and five long-haul aircraft, Rabbah said in a telephone interview. With a fleet dominated by Boeing Co. jets, the carrier’s most recent major purchase was in 2001, when it ordered four medium-haul Airbus SAS aircraft.

The timing of the tender and delivery of the planes “depends on how the situation of RAM evolves,” Rabbah said.

In 2011, the government provided Royal Air with a $180 million bailout, and the airline dismissed 30 percent of its workforce. A partial sale of RAM has been on the table for decades but never came about as it struggled to sustain profitability, despite a monopoly status on domestic flights.

Royal Air Maroc is expected to play a key role in “helping the government achieve its tourism development strategy,” Rabbah said. “It should cover Latin America, Asia, Russia and Africa.”

Morocco’s government said in 2010 it hoped to double the number of tourist visitors to 20 million by 2020 and more than double tourism receipts to 140 billion dirhams.

“We restructured the firm to help it accommodate the tourism development strategy,” Rabbah said. “RAM has every interest in striking a strategic partnership” with a major airline, “and even sell a stake of its capital if this helps the partnership,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Souhail Karam in Rabat at skaram5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tarek El-Tablawy at teltablawy@bloomberg.net

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