Final bid for Air India disinvestment today; Tata group, SpiceJet in race
The Centre is expected to finalise the sale of Air India, with at least two buyers expected to submit financial bids by September 15. The civil aviation ministry had earlier clarified that it will not extend the deadline for stake sale.
News agency ANI reported that Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh are expected to make its financial bid for the airline.
It quoted a government official to say that there is "optimism" that a bidder will be found. A similar exercise in 2018 to offload 76 per cent stake by the government was unsuccessful after no bidder was finalised.
This time, the Centre is planning to sell 100 per cent stake in the airline and its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express, along with a 50 per cent stake in ground handling company Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AISATS).
Other properties, including the Air India building in Mumbai and Airlines House in Delhi, will also be part of the deal.
Minister of state for civil aviation Vijay Kumar Singh told Parliament in July that there will be a 10 per cent reduction in reserve prices of 16 of the airline’s properties as previous attempts of auctioning them failed to attract bidders.
In March, Hardeep Singh Puri, the then civil aviation minister, said Air India had accumulated a debt of ₹60,000 crores and that it would be completely disinvested. He added the choice was between disinvesting the airline or closing it down.
At present, Air India has control over 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports as well as 900 slots abroad.
The privatisation was to be completed by late May or June, but the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic led to the delay.