The Sri Lankan government has selected US-based investment firm Texas Pacific Group (TPG) as the preferred candidate for further talks concerning a possible 49% stake in SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo Int’l).
Sri Lankan Deputy Minister for State Enterprise Development, Eran Wickramaratne, told the Daily Mirror newspaper that talks between the two sides were currently focussed on how TPG would manage the carrier given its apparent lack of hands-on airline management experience.
“They have to contract it or we’ll have to contract it from somewhere—technical assistance,” he said. “As opposed to that, if you get an airline, the airline will have those things, but they will not have the money to invest. So, when we’re looking at a solution sometimes we need more than one party.”
He added that the government has now begun directly approaching international airlines over their possible interest in the debt-ridden national carrier. This comes after State Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim said last month that in the event none of the three shortlisted finalists (TPG, PeaceAir Pvt Ltd, and the Maldivian company Super Group Partners) were found to be suitable, a second round of tenders would be held. This, Wickramaratne said, had been rendered moot given that all the relevant partnership details had already been divulged in the first round of bidding.
“Ultimately it depends on what’s on offer, what the terms are. We’re in the process of discussion [with these airlines]. We can’t know the best deal until we know everything that’s really available. This process is very long,” he said.