An international consortium including global aviation groups has joined the bidding process for a controlling stake in loss-making PIA - Pakistan International Airlines (PK, Islamabad International), Bloomberg and Pakistan's News International reported.

A May 18 announcement from the consortium reveals that its members include the consulting and management firm Swiss Aviation Group AG; Austria's Airport Competence GmbH; Australia's Pearl Asset Management PTY Limited; and Pakistan's Serene Air (ER, Islamabad International) and AirSial (PF, Karachi International), and is headed by Pakistani ethanol maker and trader Pak Ethanol Pvt, part of Omni Group. According to News International, Capital A Consultancy, the aviation consulting arm of Malaysia's Capital A, and AsiaPak Investments Limited from Hong Kong are also part of the consortium.

In a statement, the ethanol producer said the strategic alliance was aiming to boost Pakistan's economy and revitalise its aviation industry by combining local skills with international standards. It added that it believes PIA's transformation hinges on a cooperative approach.

The Pakistani government owns about 96% of PIA but seeks to divest at least 51% of the carrier's share capital and cede management control. The partial privatisation forms part of an economic reform programme mandated by the International Monetary Fund. A new governing coalition that took office on March 11 has committed to continuing with the reforms.

The government aims to complete the bidding for the controlling 51% stake in PIA by June 2024. Proceeds from the sale would be prioritised for the settling of government-guaranteed debt. PKR242 billion rupees (USD869 million) of a total of PKR629 billion (USD2.26 billion) in liabilities are to be transferred from PIA's balance sheet to a holding company held by commercial banks.

In addition to the international consortium, ten Pakistani companies including local airlines have also shown interest in acquiring a majority stake in PIA. They include Fly Jinnah (9P, Karachi International) and AirBlue (PA, Karachi International). Additionally, a consortium named Uprise Group, led by Tabassum "Tabz" Pardesi (nee Qadir), previously linked to unsuccessful crowdfunding attempts to resurrect South African Express (EXY, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), has also reportedly submitted an expression of interest.

The deadline for expressions of interest was extended from May 3 to May 17. The prequalifying process for bidders is to be concluded by the end of May and the government aims to complete the entire process by mid-2024.