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Govt to consider selling 100% stake in Air India after initial flop attempt

The government is considering various options and doesn’t intend to insist on keeping 24% stake in Air India, said secretary of the department of economic affairs, Subhash Chandra Garg.

business Updated: Jun 12, 2018 17:57 IST
Air India,Air India sale,Air India disinvestment
Planes fly past a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner aircraft, operated by Air India Ltd.,(Photographer: Dhiraj SIngh/Bloom)

The government will soon revive the sale of its money-losing flag carrier with new guidelines after a recent attempt ended in a debacle last month, as the proposed terms deterred potential investors.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is ready to “re-examine” its privatisation process, including a clause requiring a minority state stake in Air India Ltd., said Subhash Chandra Garg, a senior official in the Ministry of Finance. The government is considering various options and doesn’t intend to insist on keeping 24%of the company, he said.

“A certain kind of strategy was offered that didn’t find many takers and therefore something different will have to be done,” economic affairs secretary Garg said in an interview in New Delhi on Monday. “There’s no fixed objective that government should have 24%. It can be re-examined.”

Modi’s most high-profile privatisation plan ended in a whimper on May 31 as a deadline for prospective suitors passed by with none showing interest in the airline mired in almost $8 billion of debt. IndiGo, the nation’s biggest carrier, initially said it was keen but pulled out after the government made it clear it wasn’t selling Air India’s international operations separately.

While policy makers viewed the condition for a government stake as a “confidence building measure,” it was cited as one of the reasons for the lack of bids, Garg said.

The state retaining a stake in the airline -- already expected to lose as much as $2 billion over the next two financial years -- left open the “prospect of political interference on strategic and day-to-day matters,” the Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation said this month.

Air India, which was offered along with $5 billion of its debt, is surviving on taxpayer bailouts after losing money for years. Previous attempts by the Indian government to dispose of the carrier were derailed by political opposition.

--With assistance from Anurag Kotoky .

First Published: Jun 12, 2018 17:38 IST