Kyrgyzstan's Minister of Transport, Zhamshitbek Kalilov, says China Southern Airlines (CZ, Guangzhou) has expressed an interest in acquiring equity in national carrier Air Kyrgyzstan (LYN, Bishkek).

"Already we have received an official letter from China Southern Airlines on their willingness to buy a 49% stake in the state-owned airline, Air Kyrgyzstan," he was quoted by the Tazabek news agency during a government briefing on December 22.

The news comes after the State Property Management Fund of Kyrgyzstan's (SPMFK) initial tender concerning the sale of a 49% stake in Air Kyrgyzstan, issued earlier this year, failed to garner any meaningful bids.

As part of any agreement, the SPMFK said prospective strategic partners would have to upgrade and expand the Kyrgyz national carrier's fleet with at least five aircraft to be delivered within five years of the signing of a firm agreement. In addition, it would also have to absorb the airline's USD2.4 million debt overhang while recapitalizing it to the tune of USD1 million.

Air Kyrgyzstan currently operates one B737-300 and one B737-500 on scheduled passenger flights to Osh Int'l domestically and Abakan, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo, Moscow Domodedovo, Tashkent Islam Karimov, and Urumqi regionally. It also operates a VIP-configured Tu-154M on behalf of the Kyrgyz government.