(Bloomberg) -- State-owned Kazakh airline Air Astana is considering an initial public offering, according to four people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified as the information is not public. 

The company has approached banks, although talks are still at an early stage for a share sale, the people said.   

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that’s hit air travel around the globe could make the deal a difficult sell. There’s no certainty Air Astana will decide to proceed with a share sale next year, two of the people said.

A spokesperson for Air Astana declined to comment, while its majority owner, sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, did not immediately respond to a query. 

Samruk-Kazyna, which owns 51% of Air Astana, said last year it plans to take the company public in 2022. U.K. defense firm BAE Systems Plc controls the remaining 49%. 

The deal would be part of Kazakhstan’s long-delayed plan to privatize some of its biggest companies in order to attract investment and develop a financial hub in its capital Astana. The last public listing of a state-owned entity was Kazatomprom, the world’s largest producer of uranium, in London and Nur-Sultan in 2018.

Global initial public offerings have smashed their previous record this year, with companies cashing in on high valuations. While Covid-19 hobbled the airline industry, last month Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates said it may sell shares as travel restrictions ease.

Air Astana returned to profitability in the second quarter this year after five quarters of losses, as travel volumes picked up and it added more cargo shipments. 

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