New Delhi, Oct. 2: Bangladesh’s beleaguered national carrier Biman is looking for a strategic partner from Southeast Asian and Gulf airlines.
Top officials of the airline said they were open to funding from Indian investors as well.
According to Biman officials, the airline could look at top Gulf-based or Southeast Asian carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore International Airlines and Malaysian Airlines.
Kevin John Steele, recently appointed managing director and CEO of Biman Bangladesh, said the airline would be open to strategic partnership with anyone dependable when it was privatised in around two-and-a-half years.
Biman has recently got approval of the Bangladeshi government to launch its initial public offer (IPO). However, the Government of Bangladesh will retain a majority share, despite the strategic partnership and IPO, clarified officials.
“Not just Gulf airlines, we could get into a partnership with Southeast Asian and even European carriers. We are open to and invite Indian companies to get into a joint venture deal with Biman. New Delhi will anyway play an important role in our expansion and could potentially become our secondary hub,” said Steele.
Biman has in the last one year come up with new strategies for turnaround. The airline has made expansion plans and brought in an expat CEO, a first for the carrier. The airline for a long time has been embroiled in controversies such as corruption within its ranks and faced operational problems.
The Bangladesh government has agreed to allow Biman to go for an IPO after attaining profitability and is providing sovereign guarantee for its fleet expansion plan.
Steele, a British national, has earlier served in India as the regional head of British Airways, apart from working in Etihad and a Saudi no-frills carrier. He said Biman would remain a full-service carrier.
Steele claimed that Biman has cut its losses by $50 million in the last financial year.
“Biman lost around $75 million in 2011-12, while the results for 2012-13 show this has improved considerably to around $25 million.”
He hopes that in the current fiscal ending June next year the airline will be able to bring down the losses to $10 million and will be profitable by 2014-15.
Biman’s passenger carrying capacity has been reduced by around 30 per cent this year over the previous year resulting in a fall in revenue. However, its costs have come down. At present, the airline has eight aircraft and plans to expand its fleet to 18 in the next two years.
It will have 12 planes by March and retire four DC-10s, one of which will go to a US aviation museum.
The airline will induct more Boeing 777s and have six 787 Dreamliners on order for deliveries by 2018, Steele said.