While the government has been contemplating for long on the strategic disinvestment of national carrier Air India, despite the bidding process there were no takers for the debt ridden airline. The bidding process which went on for 3 weeks had not a single bid when the process shut finally on May 31 2018.
While answering a question by Republic TV on the sidelines of a briefing Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu candidly said,
“We have not decided any further. We do know that nobody came up with a bid for AI but again factors contributed to it.” Adding further he also said how the rising fuel prices were impacting the industry on the whole.
“Fuel prices have been on a steep rise. The whole industry is impacted and facing its set of challenges thus at this time don’t see any market player even having the additional pocket to spend on a cash strapped venture.”
Prabhu who just a couple of months ago took over charge as Minister from Ashok Gajapathi Raju says,
“Air India is India’s pride and our national carrier. We cannot sell it for just any price for the sake of it.”
The buyer would be looking at taking over a Rs 24,000 crore debt or the carrier along with over Rs 8,000 crore of liabilities.
A Group of Ministers meeting was held on June 19 chaired by Union Minister Arun Jaitley along with his cabinet colleagues Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Road & Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari along with officials of various ministries where the larger sentiment was there was no real urgency for this sell-off. However the need of the hour was to see how the ‘Maharaja” could meet operational costs.
“We will wait for an appropriate time when the market improves. Our plan hasn’t been shelved.”
The strategic disinvestment plan proposed for the sale of 76 per cent of Air India along with total sale of Air India Express and 50 per cent of Air India-SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd