Ethiopian Airlines is negotiating with Nigerian government to take over the bankrupt Arik Air, a senior official confirmed in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.
The Director of International Service at the Ethiopian Airlines Group, Mr Esayas Weldemariam, said yesterday morning they were expanding their presence in West Africa.
Facing debts and salaries crisis, the largest private airline in Nigeria Arik Air was taken over by the government last February.
If both sides agree on negotiations, the deal would be seen as an important step.
According to an analysis by CAPA, Ethiopian is aiming to exploit opportunity in the underserved US-West Africa market. The taking over of Arik Air is going to speed up this strategy, while Arik Air operates three weekly flights from Lagos to New York JFK.
Ethiopian Airlines is also managing Asky Airlines in Lome since the middle of 2016, in a joint ownership with the Togo government, and the Malawian Airlines, also jointly with the government.
Ethiopian Airlines, which began operations in 1946, has won multiple airline awards including African Airline of the year in 2015 and 2016. It has also been ranked the largest in Africa in revenue by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2014.
According to a report by the airline, a 70 per cent increase in full year 2016 net profit to $265 million boosted by an 18 per cent increase in passenger numbers over the period.