Sam Kutesa ‘looking to sell his stake in Enhas’

Foreign Minister Sam Kahamba Kutesa is seeking to sell his stake in Entebbe Handling Services, the ground-handling company at Entebbe International Airport, industry sources told Uganda Business News.

Enhas is a private firm and details of the transaction, including the amount of consideration and the identity of the intending buyers have not been made public, although sources indicated that an Asian firm was top of the suitor’s list.

According to information on its website, Enhas serves 19 scheduled airlines, up from five at inception, and employs 703 staff. The company’s revenues are not public. However, in 2014 the Civil Aviation Authority published new ground handling rates with an average cost of $1,200 for a mid-sized plane such as the Boeing 737 but could go as high as $2,500 for larger aircraft.

With 19 scheduled airlines this would give Enhas a daily revenue of at least $22,800 and annual gross revenues significantly north of $8 million.

Although it is by far the bigger player, Enhas does not enjoy a monopoly at Entebbe Airport; Das Handling Services, which Capt. Roy reportedly sold to businessman Bob Kabonero, although Sudhir Ruparelia is now the majority shareholder, holds the lucrative ground handling business for Kenya Airways, which has five flights a day, as well as Etihad and Rwanda Air.

Mr Kutesa bought Enhas in 1996 as Government of Uganda stopped supporting the national carrier, Uganda Airlines, and allowed it to slip into bankruptcy. In March 1999 Mr Kutesa, who was then the state minister for finance, was censured for alleged misuse of office and influence peddling over his purchase of the business, which was supervised by his ministry.

He later returned to Cabinet and has been foreign minister for more than a decade.

Mr Kutesa declined to comment for this story.

The planned sale of Mr Kutesa’s interest in Enhas comes on the heels of plans by government to revive Uganda Airlines. The national carrier would be expected to take over the ground handling business at the airport as a key revenue driver, potentially muscling Enhas out of business.

The Paradise Papers recently revealed that Mr Kutesa had set up a trust in the Seychelles in which he planned to channel money from Enhas to reduce his tax obligations. The minister said he did not pursue the arrangement and there is no evidence of wrongdoing on his part.