Bahrain's Mumtalakat to push Gulf Air back to Government

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Bahrain's investment fund Mumtalakat is to transfer ownership of Gulf Air to the Government.

Mumtalakat was set up in mid-2006 as a holding company for the Government's non-energy assets.

It is the sole shareholder of Gulf Air and its portfolio also includes Gulf Aviation Academy.

Sources familiar with the decision state that Mumtalakat is to return the airline to the Government. The timeframe has not been clarified.

The effect on the board of Gulf Air is yet to become clear. Gulf Air's chairman, Talal Al Zain, is also the chief of Mumtalakat.

Mumtalakat's decision comes as Gulf Air is attempting to restructure its operations to curb heavy losses, forecast by the airline's management to exceed $500 million for 2009.

Al Zain described the situation at the airline as "unsustainable" in November, pointing out that the Bahraini Government was having to provide too much support to the carrier.

Neither Mumtalakat nor Gulf Air could immediately be reached for further comment.