Citilink to gain strategic investor by mid-year

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Garuda Indonesia's low-cost arm Citilink has received four bids from parties interested to take a stake in the carrier, and will likely decide on its choice of a strategic investor by the first half of 2014.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a ceremony to mark Garuda's official joining of SkyTeam in Bali, its chief executive Emirsyah Satar says the bids are from low-cost airlines and private equity players in the Asia Pacific region.

"We're looking for a partner not only in terms of money and capital, but also for know how. We're willing to release up to 40% of Citilink, and we're willing also to share the management," he says.

"But only provided the price is right. If the price is not right, probably we won't do it."

Satar says Citilink needs a "low-cost culture" to focus on getting its costs down, and having an experienced player in the low-cost field as a partner would help achieve this.

Asked about previously mooted IPO plans for Citilink, Satar says: "I think we need a couple more years for that".

Citilink will this year take delivery of eight new Airbus A320s. The carrier had previously said that it plans to start international services in 2014 so as to reduce costs and increase aircraft utilisation.

At home, Citilink is facing pressure from players such as Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia, both of which have aggressive growth plans.

The carrier posted an operating loss of $60.2 million and a net loss of $48.4 million in 2013. The aim, however, is for a return to profitability next year.

"This year they would probably either break even or lose a little bit, and profitability will probably come the following year," says Satar.