The government may sell flagship carrier Air India this fiscal itself if it finds a suitable buyer, according to official sources. The government, they said, also expects to meet its disinvestment target as there are a number of companies in the pipeline. Various companies including GIC, New India Assurance will go for listing while strategic disinvestment of Pawan Hans and NPCIL will help meet the government its ambitious target of Rs 72,500 crore for the current fiscal. Besides, the merger of HPCL and ONGC will also add to the kitty. Earlier in the day, a ministerial panel, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, conducted a meeting to review the progress of strategic disinvestment of various state-owned companies of key ministries. The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ananath Kumar and Heavy Industry Minister Anant Geete.
As per the Budget documents, the government had budgeted to raise Rs 72,500 crore through disinvestment in CPSEs in 2017-18, which is higher than the Rs 45,500 crore raised in the current fiscal as per revised estimate. Fiscal 2016-17 is the seventh year in a row when the government would not be meeting the disinvestment target fixed in the Budget. As much as Rs 56,500 crore was budgeted to be raised through PSU disinvestment in 2016-17.
The government decided on strategic disinvestment in loss-making Air India in June. On June 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had given its in-principle approval for strategic disinvestment of Air India and five of its subsidiaries. Subsequently, an Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism was set up to guide the process.