Theweekendleader

Air India bids likely after mid-January

New Delhi

26-December-2019

The disinvestment department is likely to issue the expression of interest ((EoI) for the debt-ridden Air India after the winter holiday season which will ensure greater participation by foreign buyers.

"Tentatively the EoI could be any time after January 10", said a source.

While the government is keen to sell off the loss-making state-owned carrier Air India, attempts to showcase it as an attractive proposition to buyers have not been successful.

Air India has some unique strengths to offer to a potential acquirer which foreign airlines will prefer: its prized international slots and a strong presence in the Indian market. Roadshows were recently held in Singapore and London to gauge investor interest for the debt-laden national carrier.

Last month Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament that the bleeding carrier will have to be shut down if it fails to find a buyer.

A group of ministers overseeing the sale of Air India has already approved selling the entire government stake in the carrier. Government is considering a plan to exclude $7 billion of the airline's debt in a bid to make the airline more attractive to the buyers

Selling Air India hasn't made any profit since its 2007 merger with another state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines Ltd. Air India is saddled with $11 billion or Rs 58,000 crore in debt.

Selling Air India won't be easy due to its Rs 58,000-crore debt. Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal recently said Air India would find takers, but its huge debt is an issue. Vedanta, he said would look at BPCL once its EoI comes out.IANS