Six competing international and local financing syndicates have submitted bids to Thai Airways International to advise on the planned long-awaited partial privatisation of the national carrier.

The Thai Government has already approved in principle the sale of 23% of the airline to private investors and, potential, strategic partners. Bangkok, however, has still to decide on the timetable for the sell-off and final allocation of the finance ministry-owned shares as well as newly issued stock.

Observers hope the final selection of an advisor from a shortlist of 24 foreign and local investment banks, about four months after it was first expected, serves as an indicator that the sell-off remains on track. The list of syndicates is believed to include teams led by First Boston, Merrill Lynch, Phatra Securities and Salomon Brothers.

The Government has already announced its intention to sell 235 million shares and to issue 100 million new shares, diluting its overall holding from 93% to 70%.

Industry sources suggest that the airline and the government are divided on the size of stake to be offered to a foreign carrier. Thai's senior management is seeking to limit the role of a strategic partner, while government officials want to place the majority of the 23% stake with an investing carrier.

Source: Flight International