Lebanon Businessnews News

Update: TMA delivers first Airbus
Sammak : "we want to complement the services of MEA"
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“The aircraft was leased from Airbus- the European airline manufacturer,” said Mazen Sammak, one of the company’s shareholders.

The aircraft is an Airbus 300-600 and it has a capacity of 50-tons. TMA chose the 300-600 series in particular because it is a plane initially designed to act as a cargo freighter. It also has an encouraging fuel consumption option.

TMA benefited from the misfortune of the global financial crisis in the past one and a half year. It took advantage of the lower valuations and pricings “to finance the whole restructuring plan at lower costs- and thus lease the Airbus at a competitive price,” said Sammak. 

Throughout the period, TMA was teaming up with a global consulting partner to offer training for its team. The company was updating its manuals, re-setting the offices, and re-building its contacts.
In 1953, TMA was founded. It owned permits to fly to all worldwide countries. But in 2004, it halted its entire operations when its fleet became relatively old and as it struggled with a $60 million debt.

Despite this, businessman Mazen Bissat, also owner of the Mazen chain of pharmacies bought the debt-plagued company in late 2008 from Farid Raphael, Chairman and General Manager of Banque Libano-Francaise for only one dollar. He pledged to restructure the company and take it back to its earlier era of success.

Today, TMA is owned by Bissat, and two other shareholders. Bissat owns the largest share of the company. Mazen Sammak, and Adolph Naim, who also acts as the company’s lawyer also own part of it.

Sammak expects the newly leased Airbus to be operational very soon at the Rafik Hariri International Airport. The company is still awaiting to receive all permits from the Airport’s Authority before it operates the aircraft, he said.

Sammak said that TMA might consider expanding its fleet by one or two airplanes in the future. However, “it is still too early to consider this option… we want to successfully resume operations first,” he said.

TMA does not rule out the competition factor despite being the only pure cargo airline among the 268 airlines that currently operate at the Airport, according to Sammak. "There is competition but it is minor, we as TMA can carry larger volumes than others," he said.

Sammak said TMA is also looking forward to complement its services with that of the national carrier, the Middle East Airlines. “MEA cannot offer the services we can offer, and we cannot deliver MEA’s services.. We want both services to complete each other,” he said.

As the company gears up to resume its operations, 150 TMA employees in Lebanon, Milano, India, and Paris continue to do their tasks. Sammak is optimistic. “We will fare better than many would expect ... We are believers, we own a history and the trust of our financing partners,” he said.

Date Posted: Apr 06, 2010
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