Top News Sri Lanka looks to privatise national carrier By Feizal Samath / Posted on 9 May, 2023 10:57 The Sri Lankan government is pursuing the sale of state-owned national carrier SriLankan Airlines and its subsidiaries, as years of government handouts have failed to stem losses. While SriLankan Airlines has been reporting operating profits in recent months, its net loss remains high, running into billions of Sri Lankan rupees. The government hopes the partial sale of SriLankan Airlines would provide financial aid to the loss-making flag carrier SriLankan Airlines CEO Richard Nuttall said on May 7 that the airline has an operating profit of US$103 million, but US$100 million is channelled into servicing past debts. “If the airline can find a solution for its debt, SriLankan can become truly profitable,” he told local media. The government has announced its intention to privatise the airline, but calls for expressions of interest from interested parties have yet to be made. Minister of ports, naval and aviation services Nimal Siripala de Silva, who confirmed this decision, said it would be wise to divest SriLankan Airlines and its subsidiaries SriLankan Catering and Ground Handling services at once to a single investor, instead of opting to bring in multiple investors. The government is looking at offering a 49 per cent stake to private investors in this process with expectations to raise US$ 500 million to 600 million from the sale of the two subsidiaries, and more from the sale of the airline. Local media reported that an Indian operator has shown interest in investing. This is the third time in the national carrier’s history that the government is seeking external help to improve the airline’s fortune. In 1979 Singapore Airlines offered its expertise to run the national carrier, which had then changed its name from Air Ceylon to Air Lanka. In 1998, a 40 per cent stake of the airline was sold to Emirates, which later withdrew in March 2008 when the partnership agreement was up for renewal.