IranAir (IR, Tehran Mehrabad) has been removed from Iran’s list of state-owned assets earmarked to be sold into private ownership due to growing concerns over the company’s financial problems, the country’s transport minister, Mohammad Eslami, revealed at a press conference during a visit to the carrier’s offices on March 31.

“IranAir is one of our national assets and has been on the path to privatisation for several years, but because the conditions were not ready, after gaining approval from the government we took it off the privatisation list,” he said, according to the Mehr News Agency.

The decision came about following discussions in the government about the potential risks of such a divestment, including the possibility of insolvency a number of years after any shift to private ownership, the minister explained.

“This company has been up for privatisation for several years. However, the situation is not ripe for such a divestment, because what has been taking place there could have, in practice, harmed IranAir,” he said.

He added, though, that his ministry, the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, was planning to carry out an overhaul of the airline’s organisational structure with the aim of turning it into “a major player in the global aviation industry.”

Asked about the issue of human resources and whether IranAir could achieve greater efficiency with a slimmer workforce, Eslami clarified: “If legal, financial, and managerial structural reforms are not implemented, privatisation will destroy IranAir, so the government agreed that it leave the privatisation list, and we’ve taken the opportunity to make these changes.”

As previously reported, during a press conference in early May 2019, Eslami reiterated the Iranian government’s plan to privatise the flag carrier, saying that the process would probably be conducted via a listing on the Iranian bourse rather than simply handing it over to a single intended investor or group of investors.

“IranAir’s privatisation should be done through the capital market and we must take full advantage of this system,” he said at the time.

Since then, however, the company has appealed on multiple occasions for Iranian government assistance to help it survive a severe cash crunch and source aircraft parts as sanctions against Iran continue.