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100% stake in Air India up for grabs

Issac John/New Delhi
Filed on January 27, 2020 | Last updated on January 27, 2020 at 03.45 pm
Air India, Air India, AISATS

The government has set March 17 as the deadline for submitting the expression of interest.

At long last, after several years of flying in the red, India's national carrier Air India, beset by mounting debts and shrinking market share, is up for a full-stake sale.

The civil aviation ministry announced on Monday plans to sell 100 per cent stake in the national carrier in a bid to shore up falling government revenues amid an economic slowdown, after an initial attempt in 2018 failed to attract a single bidder.

In a statement, the ministry set March 17 as the deadline for initial submissions. Potential buyers would have to absorb Rs232 billion ($3.26 billion) of the airline's Rs580 billion ($8 billion) debt burden, the statement said. Bidders also need to have a minimum net worth of Rs35 billion, whether as sole bidder or a consortium, according to an expression of interest (EOI) issued by Ernst & Young, the transaction advisor.

In 2018, the government shelved a plan to sell a 76 per cent stake in the carrier after failing to attract any bidders.

India's Tata Group, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and IndiGo were all linked to a takeover of the airline that was founded in 1932 but subsequently ruled themselves out.

In November, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the airline would “have to close down if it is not privatized”.

Air India, which carried 18.36 million domestic passengers in 2019, has been incurring losses since its 2007 merger with another state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, even as it sought to brave tough challenges posed by privately-owned low-cost airlines.

If the sale goes through, the new owner will be taking on a fleet of 121 Air India aircraft and 25 planes in the Air India Express fleet.

The EOI also stipulates a minimum stake requirement in the consortium and company. Each member of the consortium shall hold at least 10 per cent interest in the consortium and at least 10 per cent equity share capital of the company (special purpose vehicle) to be promoted by the members of the consortium for acquiring the government stake being disinvested in Air India.

As per the EOI, the lead member shall hold at least 26 per cent interest in the consortium and at least 26 per cent of equity share capital of the company (special purpose vehicle) to be promoted by the members of the consortium for acquiring the government stake.

The net worth of each participating member (on their own or through its affiliate) should be equal to or more than 10 per cent of the net worth requirement for the consortium (i.e. 10 per cent of Rs35 billion).

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com


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