Sri Lanka Lays Out Attractive Deal for Airline Buyers

A parked SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330
John Taggart from Claydon Banbury, Oxfordshire, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read

Sri Lanka is taking additional steps to entice investors in the sale of its national carrier, SriLankan Airlines.

This week, the government announced it would assume $510 million of the airline’s debt, further incentivizing potential buyers.

This move comes just weeks after a stowaway rat caused flight cancellations. This added to the ongoing challenges faced by the airline.

Two-Pronged Approach: Debt Relief and Strategic Location

Sri Lanka is still reeling from a severe economic crisis in 2022. As a consequence, the government is eager to offload the financially troubled national airline.

SriLankan Airlines has been a significant burden on the national budget, consistently failing to turn a profit since 2008.

The government’s strategy to attract buyers is twofold. Firstly, by taking on a significant portion of the airline’s debt, they are making the investment more attractive financially.

This reduces the upfront burden for potential investors and allows them to focus on operational improvements and potential growth.

Secondly, Sri Lanka is highlighting the airline’s strategic location. Colombo, the nation’s capital, is ideally situated as a regional travel hub, connecting South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia.

This strategic advantage could be leveraged by a new owner to boost profitability. This could establish SriLankan Airlines as a key player in the region’s aviation landscape.

Photo Credit: Md Shaifuzzaman Ayon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bidding Process and Potential Suitors

The Sri Lankan government is currently conducting a two-stage bidding process to find a new owner. The first stage, which closed on March 5, 2024, involved potential investors submitting a request for qualification (RFQ).

While specific details about the submitted bids remain confidential, reports have indicated interest from prominent airlines. This reportedly includes the likes of Etihad, Emirates, and the Indian conglomerate Adani Group.

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A SriLankan Airlines Airbus A320 on the taxiway.
Shadman Samee from Dhaka, Bangladesh, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Uncertainty and the Road Ahead

The future of SriLankan Airlines remains uncertain. The recent debt assumption by the government and its strategic positioning efforts aim to improve the appeal of the airline to potential buyers.

However, the airline’s financial struggles, coupled with the ongoing economic challenges in Sri Lanka, suggest that finding the right buyer and turning the airline around will be no easy feat.

With the deadline for RFQs having just passed, the Sri Lankan government will now evaluate the submitted proposals and shortlist contenders for the next stage of the bidding process.

The coming weeks and months will be crucial in determining the ultimate fate of SriLankan Airlines and its role in the nation’s future.

About SriLanka Airlines

SriLankan Airlines is the national carrier of Sri Lanka. It is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance and operates a network of over 100 destinations in 47 countries.

The airline’s main hub is Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, Sri Lanka.

SriLankan Airlines was founded in 1979 as Air Lanka, following the termination of operations of the original Sri Lankan flag carrier, Air Ceylon.

The airline was rebranded as SriLankan Airlines in 1998 after Emirates acquired a 43.38% stake in the company. The Sri Lankan government reacquired full ownership of the airline in 2008.

SriLankan Airlines has a mixed fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including the Airbus A320, A330, and A350, and the Boeing 787 and 737. The airline offers a variety of cabin classes, including Economy, Business, and First Class.

The carrier has been a major contributor to the Sri Lankan economy, employing over 5,000 people and generating significant revenue from tourism.

However, the airline has also faced a number of challenges in recent years, including high fuel costs, competition from other airlines, and the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

In 2022, the Sri Lankan government announced its intention to sell a majority stake in SriLankan Airlines.

The government is hoping to find a new owner who can invest in the airline and help it to turn a profit.


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The Sri Lankan government will absorb $510 million in airline debt, in an attempt to attract buyers for beleaguered national carrier SriLankan Airlines
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