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GABORONE, May 29 (Reuters) - Botswana's largest tourism company, Wilderness Safaris , plans to make a bid for Air Botswana, the country's loss-making national airline which the government wants to privatise.
Botswana put the airline up for sale in February, part of plans to privatise loss-making state-owned companies. The transport department said at the time it would consider full bids for Air Botswana, as well as joint ventures, ownership, franchising and concessions.
In March, Transport Minister Kitso Mokaila said at least 17 companies had expressed interest in Air Botswana, but he did not name them.
Wilderness Safaris said it planned to make a bid when it published its full-year results last week.
The company, which is also listed in Johannesburg, operates 50 luxury resorts across eight African countries and Wilderness Air operates 35 small aircrafts in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia mainly catering to tourists.
Botswana, whose main source of wealth is diamonds, has more than 30 state-owned enterprises, most of them loss making, in industries ranging from tourism and power to housing and finance.
Air Botswana operates four domestic routes and also provides cargo and air passenger services to Cape Town and Johannesburg from Gaborone, Francistown and the tourism hubs of Maun and Kasane.
The airline's losses, blamed on a large workforce and an aging fleet, prompted a turnaround plan that includes cutting costs and cancelling unprofitable routes.
Editing by James Macharia. Editing by Jane Merriman