AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes has expressed willingness to buy stake from Tatas in AirAsia India provided it is on sale even as he emphasised that the airline joint venture is working well.
The comments assume significance against the backdrop of Fernandes recently receiving the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status, which could provide more leeway for him than as a foreign investor.
Responding to a query on whether he would look at acquiring stake from Tatas, the Malaysian airline AirAsia Group’s CEO indicated that he is willing to look at it.
“We are happy with the Tatas at the moment. It (the joint venture) is working well but if any one wants to sell and it is good price and if I can buy I will buy,” he told PTI in an interview on the sidelines of the Farnborough international airshow here.
“I (have) got my OCI (status). So why not? SOEC (Substantial Ownership and Effective Control) is a non-issue now,” Fernandes said.
Under the new civil aviation policy, foreign entities — excluding airlines — can own up to 100 per cent in Indian carriers.
AirAsia Berhad has 49 per cent stake in AirAsia India, which commenced operations in 2014. At present, the start up carrier has a fleet of six planes.
Earlier this year, Tata Sons hiked its stake in AirAsia India to 49 per cent following the exit of Arun Bhatia’s Telestra Tradeplace, which sold its entire nearly 10 per cent shareholding.
While Tata Sons bought 7.94 per cent shareholding, the remaining stake would be purchased by the carrier’s two directors – S Ramadorai and R Venkataramanan – in their individual capacity.
“We are excited about India. It is a tough market… We are looking to accelerate (in India),” Fernandes had told reporters on Tuesday.
Besides, the controversial 5/20 norm, whereby only carriers having at least five years operational experience and a fleet of 20 aircraft can fly overseas, was scrapped in the new civil aviation policy.
“I am not certainly going to tell the Indian press when AirAsia India is going to launch international operations. because all my competitors are reading. It is not necessary that airlines take time to ramp up the fleet,” Fernandes said in the interview.