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02 December 2023

Few buyers for SriLankan stake

By Shweta Jain




Gulf carrier Qatar Airways and two Indian airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways, are likely contenders to pick up a stake in SriLankan Airlines, with whom Emirates ended its 10-year management contract on Sunday, according to sources close to the island nation carrier.


Emirates’ President Tim Clark had said on January 6 that the airline is open to the idea of selling in full or part its 43.6 per cent share in the airline for an estimated fair value of $150 million (Dh550.5m). “There are other airlines and parties [local conglomerates and multinational companies based in Sri Lanka] that are interested in buying a stake in SriLankan Airlines. Although there is no clear indication yet, we have heard that Qatar Airways and a couple of Indian carriers such as Jet and Kingfisher are supposed to be approaching the Sri Lankan Government,” the source told Emirates Business in a telephone interview from Sri Lanka.


Qatar Airways’ spokesperson, Salam Al Shawa, denied the report, saying: “The Doha-based carrier is not interested in picking up a stake in the airline.”


The Colombo-based airlines’ spokesperson Chandana Desilva said Qatar Airways is a strong contender among the possible Gulf airlines.


“By partnering with the airline, Qatar Airways, which is a company with aggressive growth plans, would probably benefit the same way Emirates did 10 years back when it signed a deal with SriLankan. The carrier could offer Doha-based airline prestige and it could use Colombo as a hub to fly to the Far East,” he said.


Desilva added: “The partnership will help airlines such as Kingfisher in gaining international rights since it does not have the rights to fly on international routes.” He said it will all eventually depend on whether or not Emirates will sell its share to these airlines.


Emirates, meanwhile, does not seem to have any issues with that. “I do not think we will have any objection to selling our stake in SriLankan to Qatar Airways if it would be keen, or anyone else who would be interested,” said President Tim Clark.


“It is going to be a very good investment for any Gulf or Asian carrier,” he added.

Ian Burns, spokesperson of Etihad, which has a codesharing agreement with SriLankan, said: “We would like to focus on our core business and growth over the next four years.”