Nepal Airlines seeks Gulf partnerships to fast track expansion

Published August 24th, 2016 - 06:26 GMT

Nepal Airlines has held informal stake sale talks with a Middle East airline after the Nepalese government mandated it to find a “strategic partner,” its managing director said Monday.

The state-owned carrier is in the midst of a turnaround, having recently brought in two Airbus A320 narrow body jets and with plans to bring in two A330 wide-bodies as it phases out out-of-production Boeing 757s.

It resumed flights to Dubai from Kathmandu on August 18 after a four-year hiatus and is considering more than doubling its network to 19 destinations. Nepal's government wants the airline to bring in an outside investor to fast track the expansion plan that also includes adding at least one new aircraft a year from 2017.

“The government is quite serious,” managing director Sugat Ratna Kansakar told Gulf News following an evening Monday press conference in Dubai.

He told Gulf News that executives from a Middle East airline recently visited him in Kathmandu for “informal talks” about purchasing a stake. He declined to provide further details on the airline.

Nepal’s government could sell as much as 51 per cent of the airline to Nepalese or foreign investors and retain minority ownership, he said. Majority foreign ownership would not change the airline’s status as Nepal’s flag carrier, he added.

Nepal’s government believes an outside investor-led expansion would give the airline a greater share of passenger traffic, of which over 90 per cent of the market is at present controlled by foreign airlines, according to Kansakar.

By Alexander Cornwell

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