Sixteen potential bidders have expressed interest in participating in the partial privatisation of SriLankan Airlines (UL, Colombo International), according to a report in the local weekly The Sunday Times.

Phase one of the Sri Lankan government's bid to divest a majority stake in the national carrier required potential bidders to submit a request for qualification (RFQ) closes shortly. The Colombo-based newspaper reported, citing government sources, that Etihad Airways, Emirates, and India's Adani Group had all submitted RFQs, while Tata Sons, widely rumoured to be interested in a stake, did not. The CEO of Tata Sons-owned Air India had previously stated that he had no interest in the airline.

ch-aviation had previously reported that Emirates and Adani were eyeing a shareholding in the Sri Lankan carrier. Emirates previously owned a 43.63% stake in SriLankan Airlines and managed the carrier's day-to-day operations but divested under acrimonious circumstances in 2010.

The Sri Lankan government's advisor on the partial privatisation, World Bank Group member the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is reportedly assisting in whittling down the sixteen submitted RFQs to a shortlist. These entities will then be asked to proceed to the second phase of the bidding process. Sri Lanka's State Restructuring Unit (SRU), responsible for overseeing the partial privatisation, was unable to comment on the RFQ applicants ahead of the cut off date for submissions.