Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Indian government seeks buyer for majority stake in Air India

Centre plans to sell 76 pct stake in Air India Govt plans to sell 76% stake in Air India, cede management control
Glenn Montgomery | 30 March, 2018, 00:35

Air India serves 54 domestic and 39 global destinations and has been loss-making for many years.

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.

According to the memorandum on Air India stake sale, the government plans to offload 76% equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control. The funds saved can help the government bolster its finances and boost spending on health and education.

Companies including low-priced Indian carrier IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, Tata Group and Turkey's Celebi Aviation Holdings, have expressed an interest in buying some of Air India's operations.

India's leading airline IndiGo stressed on Thursday that it was keen to.

"Along with the debt of Rs 33,392 crore and the debt reflecting lease rentals which is off balancesheet, the minimum acquisition price for Air India thus comes to be close to Rs 43,000 crore, unless the government decides to sell some aircraft" he added.

The money that was pumped in Air India earlier would be used for public welfare sectors like healthcare and farmers, Sinha said.

"The permit that Saudi gave to Air India to fly over its territory to Israel is a global precedent", Eli Defes, the chairman of El Al's board, said in an interview last week at the airline's offices at Ben Gurion Airport.

When bidding in a consortium, a clearly defined lead member needs to hold majority stake in the corporate entity representing the consortium. Singapore Airlines has also said the company has an open mind about making an initial bid. The latest offer will include Rs 333 billion ($5.1 billion) of debt that the buyer will have to take over with the balance going to the government.

A stake in Air India will also help any European airline take the fight back to their West Asian counterparts which have managed to capture a large chunk of West-bound traffic to and from India.

As tempting a proposition it is to own this 85-year old airline which was started JRD Tata, the risks associated with its purchase are equally high.

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