SOS: Ambulance firm Mars calls for 60% investor

Five years after filing for judicial management, Medical Air Rescue Service (Mars) is now seeking a new investor to take up a 60 percent stake and revive what was once one of the country’s biggest private emergency medical services firms.

Mars applied for judicial management in 2013 after total liabilities grew to $7 million, dwarfing assets then of $2.3 million. The company was owned by Spiritage, a company run by Zach Wazara. Spiritage also held Medix Pharmacies and Broadacom, a short-lived telecoms firm. Previously, Wazara’s long-time business ally Strive Masiyiwa showed some interest in taking over the business.

In a notice on Thursday, Mars judicial manager Chris Maswi of Fairvalue Management Consultancy tendered for fresh investors, saying the company has now turned the corner.

“The business has since responded positively to various interventions implemented. Tenders are hereby invited from interested parties to purchase 60 percent of the Equity in Mars Zimbabwe Private Limited,” Maswi said.

At its peak, Mars had provided over 30 000 air rescue services across the region, including in Angola, Madagascar and the DRC. But in his application for judicial management, Wazara had said Mars had collapsed due to stiff completion from other service providers such as Cimas and Netstar and a shift in business models in the medical field.

“The emergence of competition in the provision of ambulance services has led to health funders shifting the relationship with ambulance services from capitation (payment per person) to fee-for-service business models. This has led applicant to lose revenues amounting to 45 percent,” Wazara’s affidavit said at the time.