Morocco's RAM airline to buy 20 new planes by 2020-CEO
Rabat, June 20 (Reuters) - Morocco's Royal Air Maroc (RAM) wants to buy between 20 and 30 new-generation planes, including 15 medium-haul and 5 long-haul jets as soon as possible, its chief executive said on Thursday.
Royal Air Maroc's fleet of about 44 medium and long-haul aircraft is becoming obsolete, while it has sought to develop Casablanca as a regional hub, connecting mostly poorly served west African capitals to Europe and North America.
"We wish to renew our fleet with the new-generation planes, and we need between 20 and 30 additional jets by 2020", RAM Chief Executive Driss Benhima told state news agency Map.
For long-haul, Benhima said he would be interested in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which competes with Airbus 350 , as the aircraft burns 15 percent less fuel than the current generation.
He said the Airbus Neo and Boeing Max were attractive medium haul options while the Cseries of Bombardier or Embraer were also being considered.
"If we want to develop and protect our market share, we must think of buying new planes," the CEO said.
RAM is looking beyond the Euro crisis which hit tourism, its main source of revenue, to develop its business and take on competition from European airlines. The North African kingdom signed an Open Skies agreement with the European Union in 2006 allowing new airline competitors, including low-budget carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet.
Benhima didn't give details for the company's financing plan. The company's operating profit was 718 million dirhams ($84.5 million) in 2012, the best result since the 1990.
Morocco, which has been thinking about reducing its stake in RAM for more than 20 years, led major efforts to restructure the group last year in a move that tourism operators said was a sign the state was preparing for a sale.
But the transport minister Abdelaziz Rebbah has said he would rather pursue a strategic partnership with an airline from one of the Gulf states or beyond, than sell a stake in its flag carrier.
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