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Foreign airlines cold on India stakes

india Updated: Jun 17, 2012 22:49 IST
Tushar Srivastava
Tushar Srivastava
Hindustan Times
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India may be one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world but the talk of allowing foreign carriers to invest in Indian airlines no longer excites them.

Top foreign airline CEOs that Hindustan Times spoke to at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Beijing last week said the talk of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) by airlines had been going on for years and it was time for India to stop the speculation and act.

A proposal to allow foreign airlines to pick up 49% stake in Indian carriers is under active consideration by the government and is likely to come up before the Cabinet soon. At present, India allows foreign investment of up to 49% but foreign airlines are banned from investing in them.

"I have been hearing since last five years that rules will be changed but rules haven’t changed so we are not even thinking about it," said Willie Walsh, CEO, International Airlines Group (holding company of British Airways and Iberia). "We are not talking to any India carrier."

Walsh also added that he doesn’t consider India as an attractive destination to invest in.

“India is an attractive destination for us to serve but I am not sure if India will be an attractive destination for us to invest in,” Walsh said. “Reason is that the Indian government continues to provide financial support for Air India, which in my mind distorts competition.”

Azran Osman-Rani, CEO, AirAsia X, said that India needs to act now. “I think we have reached a point where we say prove it, do it, don’t talk about it anymore,” said Azran Osman-Rani. “India has been talking about it for the longest time and not doing it, so India needs to get serious. We are not interested to speculate anymore.”

Meanwhile, Tim Clark, president of the Dubai-based Emirates said they had no plans to invest in an Indian carrier even if the rules were changed.