NDTV | "Determined To Privatise Air India," Says Aviation Minister

Sep 13,2019

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday said the government is determined to privatise national carrier Air India and it will soon have the meeting of Group of Ministers (GoM).

Addressing the media, he said the GoM will decide the expression of interest.

"We are determined to privatise Air India. The first meeting of the alternate mechanisms, which is the meeting of the Group of Ministers under the leadership of (Home Minister) Amit Shah, will be organized soon," Mr Puri said.

He said after the expression of interest is finalized, the process will start.

In June, the Central government had decided to restart the divestment process of the national passenger carrier and its five subsidiaries.

At that time, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had said that continued support from the government had resulted in improved financial and operational performance of the airline.

Last year, the government had decided to implement a revival plan for the airline, comprising a comprehensive financial package and sale of non-core real estate assets.

The plan comprised several major elements such as a comprehensive financial package, including transfer of non-core debt and assets to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and strategic disinvestment of subsidiaries.

Since the implementation, the airline's financial and operational performance has improved.

The plan was initiated after the government had offered to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India. However, the state-owned carrier failed to attract any bidder.

On May 31, 2018, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had said that "no response" was received even during the extended submission deadline for the expression of interest (EoI) bids under Air India's divestment process and the "further course of action will be decided appropriately".

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Air India has a total debt of about ₹ 60,000 crore. The cumulative loss of the national carrier is to the tune of ₹ 70,000 crore. In the financial year ending March 31, 2019, the airline is estimated to have reported a loss of ₹ 7,600 crore.

In an earlier decision, the government had decided to transfer debt of ₹ 29,464 crore along with other non-core assets to the newly-created SPV to attract bidder interest for the carrier.

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