Cape Town – South African Airways said tougher competition, rising finance costs and a weakening of the rand led to the state-owned carrier’s biggest loss in more than a decade.

The loss of R4.7 billion ($331 million) in the year through March 2015 was also exacerbated by the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, which hurt traffic between South Africa and destinations in the Americas, India and Asia, Johannesburg-based SAA said in a statement on Thursday. Finance costs rose 86 percent to R490 million due to increasing dependency on state guarantees to stay solvent, the airline said.

“The increase in finance costs is directly attributable to the increased reliance on shareholder-guaranteed funding,” SAA said. “It is anticipated this will continue to increase until the airline achieves a turnaround in its operating result.”

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan signed off on a further R4.7 billion going-concern guarantee last week after the cabinet approved a new board for the struggling airline. Chairwoman Dudu Myeni’s role at the company had been a source of conflict between Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma, and while Myeni remains in the post she and the new directors are expected to set a timeline for a return to profitability, the finance minister said on Tuesday.


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