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Published On: Thu, Mar 29th, 2018

“Air India will be run by Indians,” even after disinvests,: Minister

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international-aircraft-clearance-aircraft-ahmedabad-vallabhbhai-airlines_abe0224e-b7f8-11e7-8fe3-8a4365deb777NEW DELHI : Air India will continue to be run by Indians even after the Centre disinvests, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha has said. He said the airline would be kept independent of government control and complete management control would be handed over to the promoter who picks up the 76 percent stake.

“The top bidder will get 76 percent of shares and complete management control,” Sinha said, reported news agency ANI. Addressing concerns from certain quarters over allowing foreign control of the key aviation sector player, Sinha said, “Air India will be kept independent. It will be run by Indians.

“He also took a shot at the Congress-led UPA over the mismanagement of the airline, which had led to unsustainable levels of debt which affected the airline’s ability to continue operations and pay its staff. “We’ve reduced the burden of debt by almost half. The UPA made the Maharaja a beggar. Now, we are restoring the Maharaja’s glory,” Sinha said.
The Narendra Modi government had in 2017 given an in-principle approval for the disinvestment of the airline. The Civil Aviation Ministry had on Wednesday called for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for the sale of 76 percent stake in the national carrier.

The disinvestment would involve the sale of stake in Air India, its low cost arm Air India Express and the airline’s stake in Air India SATS Airport Services, a joint venture between Air India and Singapore-based SATS Ltd.Global accounting giant Ernst & Young  has been appointed the transaction adviser to the government for the disinvestment.
The disinvestment of Air India has been in the works for years now. Among the players who have expressed interest in picking up a stake was Tata. If Tata does win the bid, it would reclaim control the airline, which had been Tata Airlines, before it was nationalised in 1953.Another bid for the airline may come from a consortium of global players which includes Jet airways, Air France-KLM and Delta Airlines.
India Government plans to sell a controlling stake in Air India along with roughl y $5.1 billion of the state-run carrier’s debt, one of the biggest divestments undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
The government plans to sell a 76 percent stake in the carrier that operates both domestic and international routes, according to official bid documents released by the ministry of civil aviation.

The proposed sale will also include a 100 percent stake in Air India’s low-cost arm — Air India Express — and a 50 percent stake in its ground-handling arm — SATS Airport Services. Bids for the assets are expected to be submitted by May 14.

Modi’s Cabinet gave the go-ahead last year to sell the loss-making flagship airline after successive governments spent billions of dollars to keep it solvent.But its debt burden of about $8 billion has been a concern.
Previous attempts to offload the airline have been unsuccessful. If Modi can pull this off, it will buttress his credentials as a reformer brave enough to wade into some of the country’s most intractable problems.Air India has six subsidiaries — three of which are loss-making — with assets worth about $4.6 billion. (With Agency Inputs ).

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