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AFP: Sri Lanka, Emirates close to deal on airline buy-back

[AFP, Friday, 4 June 2010 11:41 No Comment]

azZ-K3MT1AiQ Sri Lanka is on the verge of buying back the 43.6 percent stake in its national carrier held by Dubai’s Emirates Airlines, SriLankan Airlines’ chairman said Friday.

"The deal is close to being finalised," Nishanta Wickremesinghe told reporters. "It is now between the government and Emirates."

Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier, bought its stake in SriLankan for 70 million dollars in 1998, in line with a privatisation of the airline, which was then known as Air Lanka.

Although the Sri Lanka government retained a 51 percent stake, Emirates was given management control of the airline over a 10-year period.

When that period ended in 2008, Emirates valued its holding at around 150 million dollars.

Wickremesinghe did not give details of the buy-back deal, but airline sources quoted a figure of between 55-65 million dollars.

"Papers are being exchanged and a deal should be ready soon," an airline source who declined to be named said. "The government wants to finance the purchase through at least two of its profit-making commercial enterprises."

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