By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Debt-laden national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, would have to explore other options if the ongoing hunt for a suitable partner through the expression of interest (EOI) process fails, Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne said. Wickramaratne told Mirror Business that SriLankan Airlines has received a fair amount of interest from international players, but the authorities are still waiting for the most suitable party to partner with SriLankan.
Wickramaratne noted that if the outcome of the current process is not satisfactory, the government will search outside. “If we, through this process (the calling of EOIs), don’t find a satisfactory solution, then we will continue to search ‘outside’ this process till we find a satisfactory solution. “We will have to go around the world looking for a suitable partner. We will not be calling for another round of EOIs. We have already given an opportunity for those who are interested to come forward. We hope it will succeed,” said Wickramaratne. He said that of the eight potential p a r t n e r s who had expressed interest, three have been shortlisted. The handpicked entities include two investors and one airline. However, no major international airline has so far expressed interest, Mirror Business learns. While the shortlisted players are yet to present their proposals, Wickramaratne noted that if the plans put forward are in sync with the expectations of SriLankan, there will be no delays in kicking off the negotiation process.
SriLankan Airlines is on the lookout for a partner who will pump in capital and takeover the management. SriLankan called for EOIs to find a partner, which were made available from 27 July for a nonrefundable fee of US $ 5000. In an attempt to accommodate more players, the deadline for EOIs was extended from 24 August to 31 August 2016, while proposals were accepted till 23 September 2016. In March this year, the government announced it was seeking foreign assistance to turnaround SriLankan
The statement was made shortly after the government acknowledging the national airline cannot payback its debt mounting over US $ 1 billion. In addition to the debt pile, SriLankan has accumulated losses to the tune of Rs.128 billion (US $ 872 million).