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20 June 2016

What are your views on govt seeking partner to run SriLankan Airlines?
The Sri Lankan government has decided to restructure SriLankan Airlines and is looking for a suitable partner to run the national carrier, which has been in the red for the last eight years. Adopting a proposal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan cabinet also decided to absorb all liabilities of the airlines. As on December 31, 2015, the liabilities stood at $3.2 billion. The cabinet advised the airlines to consider cancelling the order for four new aircraft. Calling it a “landmine” for the economy, the PM recently said that the Government is currently looking for a business partner or an investor and that he has instructed the debt-ridden national airline to cancel four of eight A350 aircraft orders with Airbus Group SE. He stated that if left untouched, the piling up debt of SriLankan Airlines would lead to the collapse of not only the airline but also Sri Lanka’s economy and tourism sector. The state-run SriLankan Airlines was a profitable 10-year joint venture with Dubai-based partner Emirates Airline until the pair split in 2008. Mismanagement in the years since has left it with a debt of around $3.25 billion, the prime minister said. The airline has bought seven Airbus A330-300s since 2012 to replace its aging fleet, before ordering the eight A350s. It posted a group net loss of 16.33 billion rupees ($112.57 million) for the financial year through March 31, narrowing from the 31.37 billion rupees loss of a year earlier due to lower oil prices. The carrier last posted a profit in 2009, a year after Emirates sold its stake in the venture. Formed in 1979 as a successor to Air Ceylon and named Air Lanka, the airline was later rebranded by the then management partner Emirates as SriLankan in 1998. The previous government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa retook the airline ending Emirates’ partnership in 2007. What are your views regarding the decision to seek an investor or a partner for the airline mired in debt? Is it the right move or should the government continue to keep full stake in the national carrier? Have your say. This is your forum. This is your voice.

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