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Thu 14 Nov 2019 10:44 AM

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India kicks off Air India privatisation process in Singapore

Indian government plans to divest 100% stake in AI. Global management consultancy EY is advising the Indian government on the Air India divestment transaction

India kicks off Air India privatisation process in Singapore

The Indian government team is likely to visit London and Dubai also for discussions with prospective investors.

Indian government has kicked off the process for privatising its debt-ridden national carrier Air India with a high level official team from the Department of Investment & Public Asset Management (DIPAM), civil aviation ministry and Air India conducting roadshows in Singapore this week, government sources have said.

The Indian government team is likely to visit London and Dubai also for discussions with prospective investors as a precursor to inviting expressions of interest (EoI).

“The team, headed by Secretary, DIPAM (T K Pandey), will make presentations and interact with prospective investors, including foreign airlines, investment funds and even HNIs (high net worth individuals) to gauge investor response and their feedback for the proposed divestment,” a member of the secretary-level core group formed to deal with Air India privatisation, told Arabian Business.

Indian government plans to divest 100 percent of its stake in the national carrier. Global management consultancy EY is advising the Indian government on the Air India divestment transaction.

Foreign investors, including foreign airlines and airport operators, can, however, hold only up to 49 percent equity in Air India under the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for the aviation sector.

“As of now, there is no move to change the FDI rule for aviation sector to allow foreign investors to hold majority stake in the airline,” the senior government official said.

The core group member said the overseas road shows are mainly meant to woo foreign financial investors - international funds, HNIs, etc – who may want to hold minority stakes in Air India, looking at the long-term prospective of the airline, post-privatisation.

EoIs for Air India will be invited soon after holding the roadshows, according to official sources.

Official sources also said both Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express will be sold together, as per the current plans.

“Air India Express will be the sweetener for the deal,” the core group member said.

“Except some non-core subsidiaries, Air India and all its other subsidiaries will be sold as a single entity,” the official said.

Earlier, there were reports that Air India Express, the sister airline of Air India which mainly operates in the India-Midde East sector, could be sold separately as it could attract high investor interest because it is profit-making and has a lean operational structure.

Besides making Air India Express as part of the Air India privatisation deal, government of India also plans to bring down the massive debt liabilities of the national carrier -  estimated to be $7.9 billion (Rs 570 billion) – to about $2.77 billion (Rs 200 billion) to make it more attractive for investors.

Indian conglomerate Tata group and a couple of European airlines are said to be among the possible bidders for Air India, which has the largest share of international flying rights and seat capacities among Indian carriers.

Air India posted an operating loss of approximately $638 million (Rs 46 billion) in FY 19, which the airline attributed to higher oil prices and forex losses.

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