Indian government seeks buyer for majority stake in Air India

Posted March 30, 2018

The Central government has invited an "expression of interest" to divest a 76 percent stake in and management control of national passenger carrier Air India.

The government plans to sell a 76 percent stake in the carrier that operates both domestic and worldwide routes, according to official bid documents released by the ministry of civil aviation.

In an official document that accompanies invitation for the Expressions of Interest (EoI) by interested bidders to purchase Air India, the government said the disinvestment would cover Air India, its low-priced arm Air India Express and ground-handling firm Air India SATS Airport Services.

This is something which Martin hints at when he says that given the complexity of Air India, its size, network, real estate, assets, fleet and subsidiary companies, "there is no way we can expect to see a deal closure before the 2019 elections".

Air India serves 54 domestic and 39 worldwide destinations and has been loss-making for many years. No government, barring the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA regime during 1998-2004, has seriously attempted company-level privatisation - "strategic disinvestment", as it is called. If Modi can pull this off, it will buttress his credentials as a reformer fearless enough to wade into some of the country's most intractable problems.

"The balance debt shall be allocated to Air India Asset Holding Ltd., which is 100 percent owned by the GOI subject to receipt of requisite approvals from lenders and regulators, as applicable".

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Air India started as Tata Airlines in 1932 and later became state-owned.

The government has stipulated a net worth criteria of INR 5,000 crore for parties interested in bidding for Air India and the bidders need to ensure that only Indian nationals will have the control of Air India.

A stake in Air India will allow the West Asian airlines to get a greater hold on the Indian market.

El Al is trying to force the rescindment of Air India's permit to operate its new Delhi-Tel Aviv service on short routes unavailable to the Israeli flag-carrier. There would be the "government commitment to make it good/indemnify in case the liabilities are confirmed against Air India", it added.

However, Indigo's state-owned rival has a 16.9 percent share of the worldwide travel market in India.

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