Ajibola Amzat of The Guardian Newspaper Interviews Mr Atedo N. A. Peterside con
Interview Published in The Guardian Newspaper on 7th December 2015
At the age of 33, Atedo Peterside founded Investment Banking and Trust Company Limited (IBTC). As soon as IBTC gained ground, he launched IBTC Stockbrokers and later IBTC Pension Managers. Each of these companies soon became market leaders, before he consummated a number of banking acquisitions that saw IBTC metamorphosing into Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc in 2007. With the establishment of ANAP Business Jets Limited (ANAP Jets) in 2014, Atedo is setting a new record in the aviation industry as the founder, chairman and majority shareholder of the new company. He spoke with AJIBOLA AMZAT about the idea driving ANAP Jets.
The ANAP Jets approach to airline business (Fractional Ownership of Private Jets) is new on the African continent. Can you explain the nature of the business and how beneficial it will be to your clients?
In a nutshell, the ANAP Jets clients (Fractional Owners) pay an upfront fee for a guaranteed number of hours of flying (Occupied Hours) per annum with the assurance that a new private jet will be available for their immediate use on demand.
The truth is that only a handful of very large companies in Nigeria can justify owning a business jet exclusively for their own use. For almost everyone else, the private jet that they own exclusively runs the risk of being seriously under-utilised. Aeroplanes are built to fly. They are not museum pieces to be parked at Abuja for days or weeks on end. Tying down significant investible dollars to acquire 100% of an asset that flies for only a couple of hours in a week is incredibly wasteful. Whether you fly or not, some costs are fixed e.g. parking, crew, insurance, maintenance etc.
We take pride in saying that the ANAP Jets Fractional Ownership Platform is a smarter way to “own” a private jet. It is akin to time-share for a holiday home. Our clients are not seeking an ego trip. If they were, they would purchase their own large aircraft and emblazon their name on it.
How prepared is the Nigerian business environment for this new product given the harsh economic climate in the country?
The challenging economic climate that you refer to is both a “curse” and a “blessing” for a business like ours. Yes, low prices of oil and commodities affect the appetite of some businesses to pay for executive travel. However, the same austere climate necessitates the need to travel further afield to explore new business opportunities and/or to use fewer executives (who travel more efficiently) to execute a larger volume of business that is spread out geographically within our sub-region.
Let me also try and make it clear that, at ANAP Jets, we are not really selling luxury. We are selling functionality and convenience. Fractional ownership is a business tool. Our product is not for the wasteful oligarch or the insensitive Governor or Government official who is searching for opulence. A typical fractional owner who owns a slice of a brand new private jet via the ANAP Jets fractional ownership platform is a cost-conscious businessman who wants to fly “smart” and avoid tying down investible funds unnecessarily via expensive asset acquisition.
What is the response of corporate bodies and business community to the new business?
The response has been encouraging. Our strict confidentiality rules do not allow us to discuss who does business with us and who does not or who is in the process of doing so. This business is a marathon. It is not a sprint. We expect to operate on thin margins for a number of years. We know that the business will not grow if we try and over-charge.
Do you think you and other investors have enough funds to pump into this business to ensure it grows?
Our business model is a disciplined one. We are only buying aircrafts as fast as we have fractional owners that are willing to pay for them. There could be timing differences, but there is absolutely no desire to indulge in a ruinous funding mismatch. I come from a disciplined financial and investment banking background. I have zero tolerance for gambles that can lead to financial suicide. I am also an economist by training and I understand that credibility is important in large financial transactions.
People must know with certainty that ANAP Jets will not take their money and fail to deliver the promised brand new aircraft. We are not selling aircrafts off-plan. We are selling fractions in aircrafts that are available and ready to fly. We will not even agree to take your money if we have no aircrafts to deliver. This is not a “pie in the sky” project.
Where is the operational base of the company and do you intend to cover the whole of the continent or are you limiting your operations to West Africa?
Our head office is in Lagos because that is the business capital of Nigeria and that is also where the Embraer Service Centre is located. Abuja is our most frequent destination. Since we commenced operations, our planes have landed in Casablanca, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra, Kano, Port Harcourt, Lome, Benin, Uyo, Birnin-Kebbi, among others. An aircraft is a mobile asset.
Suffice to say that nothing stops us from having Fractional Owners who are resident outside Nigeria. We will go hunting where ducks fly. Ducks do not fly in Lagos alone. Our Vision statement is: “imagine an African sky that has no limits”.
Why did you choose the Embraer Phenom 300 Aircraft as your launch aircraft?
Quite simply, it is the modern aircraft that is the best suited to our regional needs. The Embraer Phenom 300 is the private jet that was most delivered amongst all private jets globally in both 2013 and 2014. It takes 7 passengers and is a best-in-class aircraft. It has a maximum operating speed of 0.78 Mach. It can go as high as 45,000 feet (way above many tropical storms) and its runway performance is excellent, as it needs less than 1,000 metres for take-off. This is ideal for Sub-Saharan Africa, where many provincial airports have short runways.The range is also impressive. For instance, we have flown non-stop from Casablanca in Morocco straight to Lagos.
Can you provide more details about your technical partners?
Our technical partners and minority shareholders are Eurofly Service S.p.A of Italy. They have been in aviation for over four decades. We like them and we like their safety record. Eurofly has been a highly successful European private aviation company for over four decades. We are fortunate to have partnered with an aviation company of the right pedigree that believed in ANAP Business Jets Limited and our business model.
Our maintenance platform delivers impeccable standards and is operated in conjunction with Eurofly, our Technical Partner, Embraer – the Aircraft manufacturer and Pratt & Whitney – the engine manufacture. We were very pleased when Embraer set up an Approved Service Centre in Lagos for the Phenom 300 aircrafts that were built for us in their Brazilian factory.
Having qualified engineers plus necessary spare parts for our aircrafts right here in Lagos is great for our business.The potential knowledge transfer benefit is also invaluable for ANAP Jets own engineers.
Most indigenous airlines in the country preferred pre-owned aircraft. Is your company toeing this line or are you acquiring new aircrafts for the operations of the company?
All our aircrafts are purchased brand new. That is a business decision that is in line with our marketing pledge. It is about where we have chosen to position our brand. It is also about what our target clientele want. They want to have the assurance that they are buying a piece of a modern aircraft that will command a high residual value in five years time when we dispose of the aircraft. There is a measure of in-built enhanced safety that comes from operating new aircrafts. New aircrafts inspire confidence and only require light maintenance in the early years.
The aviation industry is one of the troubled sectors of the economy. How do you intend to navigate the sector and make a success of the business?
I have always had a hidden interest in aviation, but I wanted to marry this with business and financial discipline plus some financial engineering. ANAP Jets is about the super-imposition of business and financial discipline unto a reliable and credible aviation platform to create a product that confers all the advantages of owning your own private jet in terms of convenience and reliability, whilst cutting out the unnecessary and wasteful tie-up of investible dollars.
Let us talk about the aviation sector. What do you consider to be major challenges confronting the sector today and what do you see as the way out?
I would urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure that policy in this sector is driven by three top priorities:- First, Safety; second, Safety and third, Safety.
We do not want to wake up one morning and hear about another ghastly plane accident that could have been avoided. The first responsibility and the top priority should be safety and not a national carrier. There are several countries that have no national carrier, but they offer safe airports, safe skies and they insist on safe aircrafts and therefore they can almost guarantee safe air travel for their citizenry. I believe Port Harcourt Airport was recently voted as the worst international airport in the world.
I believe that ranking is deserved. I have travelled widely in all the five continents:- North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and even Australasia. Certainly, I personally have not come across a worse international airport than the one in Port Harcourt. It is a national disgrace. No visitor can believe that PH is supposed to serve as the gateway into the South South zone and large parts of the South East zone. It is also supposed to be our own Oil and Gas gateway, our own little “Houston”.
What is your view about the appointment of Senator Hadi Sirika as the Minister of State for Aviation?
He has an aviation background, but that should not be a prerequisite for appointing ministers. Some of the important qualities that he brings to the job include the fact that he is positive, forward-looking and business savvy.
What advice do you have for the new aviation minister? What must he do to ensure that the sector lives up to the expectation of Nigerians?
I have already mentioned earlier that safety should be the number one goal. According to the ICAO Safety Report 2014, Africa had approximately 2% of global air traffic in 2014 and yet our share of global aviation accidents in that same year was 10%. There is no excuse for that. We can and should be as safety conscious as the rest of the world. We want safe airports, safe skies, safe aircrafts etc.
It sounds so simple, but we have had some past Aviation Ministers who only remembered this after the country suffered some horrific air crashes that were avoidable. If you ask Nigerians to choose between safe skies and a national carrier, they will choose safe skies first. The aviation minister should ask questions about the surface conditions of all our runways, the quality of lighting (runways and taxiways), quality of communications between air traffic control and the pilots they are directing etc.
We want to get to a position where we can say that we should never have an aviation accident anywhere in this country caused by these avoidable factors. Are we there yet? It is for the aviation minister to ask these hard questions and help initiate and coordinate policies that will get us there.
We also have to expand existing airports and equip them properly to keep pace with growing passenger traffic plus build new airports to open up the hinterland. Aviation is the preferred mode of travel for the future. Sadly, the pursuit of ill-advised and grandiose national carrier projects in the past, made us take our eyes off the safety ball. Fewer and fewer countries around the world care about a national carrier. Successive European countries have given up on the old-fashioned national carrier model. Most African countries have also jettisoned the idea. Even in South Africa, the complaints are getting louder about the losses that are continuously being racked up by their unviable national carrier – South African Airways.
Africa’s nascent aviation industry has been growing in leaps and bounds. This was expected on account of rising incomes and increased urbanisation. In most parts of Africa, there are large distances between urban centres. The days of Mungo Park spending months sailing up the River Niger are long gone. Businessmen want to finish their journey inside one or two hours and only air travel can achieve that over long distances.
Security concerns have also helped to create that mindset. Indeed, even Mungo Park never lived to tell us about his last journey up the River Niger. Government policy on aviation should be futuristic. We should not lose energy trying to repeat failed experiments from past years. I would emphasise “safety” as the watchword and the call to action in aviation. Our accident rate must not be above the world average. Indeed, we want Nigeria’s accident rate to be below the world average. After all, we do not encounter snow storms, icy runways, among others, here.
What social impact has ANAP Jets had, if any?
I know that we are creating jobs and we are also helping to open up the hinterland to big business. An Airbus A380 aircraft may carry close to 600 passengers and it is flown by two pilots. An ANAP Jets Phenom 300 aircraft only has seven passenger seats, but it is also flown by two pilots. You can see that our business is therefore “labour intensive”. Of course I mean highly skilled labour.
We send all our Nigerian pilots overseas for initial training so they get type-rated for the Phenom 300. We also send them back overseas every year for recurrent training. The ANAP Jets engineers also go overseas for training on our aircraft type.The greatest satisfaction I get as an entrepreneur is creating jobs – highly skilled jobs. Conversely, there is nothing more demoralising than watching highly educated people slowly lose their skills and their sharpness because there are not enough entrepreneurs around to create private sector jobs to absorb them.
We are in this business for the long haul and so we are prepared to invest in people. I hope that qualifies as social impact?
In what way does ANAP Jets help to open up the hinterland?
Air travel is the preferred mode of travel for entrepreneurs and business executives. We are already flying Fractional Owners to less frequently travelled locations like Kebbi, Uyo etcetra. The first time I went to Kebbi State, I flew from Lagos to Abuja and then drove in a car for eight hours to get to Kebbi.
Today, an ANAP Jets fractional owner can leave Lagos at 7 or 8 a.m., spend the day in Kebbi and return home to Lagos before dark. A fractional owner who lives in Kebbi can equally fly to Lagos or Abuja and return home on the same day. By opening up those possibilities, big businessmen who are based elsewhere can decide to make large investments in Kebbi. It will take a while before commercial airlines frequent that same route with multiple flights in a day.
Provincial airports open doors for business and private jets typically go in first before airlines that operate scheduled services. There is a chicken and egg situation nowadays with provincial airports. If you do not have an airport in a region, big businessmen will not want to come there to invest. If businessmen do not come to the region, it is hard to justify building an airport in anticipation. Unlike charter operators, ANAP Jets does not charge for positioning an aircraft and so a businessman who opts to live in the hinterland will not pay us any more for his journeys than one who lives in Lagos. A fractional owner simply tells us from which airport he wants to commence his journey. How we get an ANAP Jets private jet to him is our business.