Only the brave will take on Air India, says Anand Mahindra | business-news | Hindustan Times
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Only the brave will take on Air India, says Anand Mahindra

The head of the Mahindra Group conglomerate, who is known for risky acquisitions, made it clear that he was not in contention for acquiring the debt-ridden national carrier.

business Updated: Jul 10, 2017 08:30 IST
Air India planes are parked on the tarmac at the Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. The Cabinet has approved a plan to privatise the debt-ridden national carrier Air India. A statement from the finance ministry Wednesday, June 28, 2017, said that the government had given
Air India planes are parked on the tarmac at the Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. The Cabinet has approved a plan to privatise the debt-ridden national carrier Air India. A statement from the finance ministry Wednesday, June 28, 2017, said that the government had given "in principle" approval to sell disinvest from the troubled airline which has struggled to emerge from the red as competition from a number of low-cost airlines has grown. (AP)

Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra said he was not brave enough to take on debt-laden Air India after the government said it would privatise the ailing national carrier.

Air India, known as the “Maharaja of the Skies” for its turbaned mascot, is reeling under Rs 520 billion ($8 billion) in debt which clouded the government announcement of the selloff late Wednesday.

It is unclear if the government will write off any part of the debt. But there appeared little enthusiasm among potential buyers as markets opened Thursday.

The head of the Mahindra Group conglomerate, who is known for risky acquisitions, made it clear that he was not in contention.

“I see myself as a generally courageous person,” Mahindra said on Twitter. “But I confess .. I don’t possess THAT much courage.”

Once the country’s monopoly airline, Air India has lost market share to new low-cost private carriers.

Passengers tired of delays, cancellations and the service have flocked to new competitors offering cheaper and more reliable routes in India’s booming aviation market.

Media reports have speculated that Tata Group could buy a stake in Air India, which it owned before the carrier was nationalised nearly 70 years ago. Tata is yet to comment.

Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, another major conglomerate, recently suggested that Bombay House, Tata’s headquarters, would be the ideal rehab for the ailing carrier.

Social media users made digs at the impending sell-off, with some marking tweets with the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #maharajaforsale.

“No one in their right mind would buy Air India. Only someone hell bent on committing seppuku (ritual suicide) will buy Air India,” @iPatelAnkit wrote on Twitter.

“Potential buyer of Air India says, AI air hostesses will be retained as Air-Grandma & they will read bedtime stories to the kids in planes,” tweeted another user.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is to head a committee to decide the size of the stake to be sold and how Air India’s assets and debts will be handled.