Will be very happy to look at Air India privatisation: Ratan Tata

ENS Economic Bureau Posted online: Saturday, Oct 26, 2013 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : Tata Group chairman emeritus Ratan Tata has said he will be interested in bidding for Air India. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with civil aviation minister Ratan Tata said “As an when it (Air India disinvetment) happens, we would be very happy to look at it.”

Tata’s comment came weeks after civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had said that the national carrier cannot always run on public money and the government must explore options including privatisation.

Tata was speaking to reporters after he, along with Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong and Tata-SIA Airlines chairman Prasad Menon, met the civil aviation minister. Other than SIA his group is already a joint venture partner with AirAsia.

Both the joint ventures are expected to begin operations from 2014. In the case of Tata-SIA, the launch date is likely be May-June. “We are looking at very fast clearances. We hope that we will be able to launch by May-June,” said Tata SIA Airlines chairman Prasad Menon. AirAsia India is expected to fly earlier.

The meeting came a day after the FIPB gave its green signal to their proposal to start a full-service airline entailing an initial equity investment of $100 million in the joint venture.

Earlier on Friday the delegation met commerce and minister Anand Sharma and department of economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram. Yesterday, Tata and Goh had also met finance minister P Chidambaram.

The comments by Tata are significant. Air India was formed and launched by the Tata Group and was being operated as Tata Airlines till 1946. It became a public limited company and was named Air India when the government of India acquired a 49 per cent in the airline with an option to purchase an additional 2 per cent after the country got independence in 1947.

Tata meanwhile, also denied any dispute among the shareholders in Tata-Air Asia. “There is no confusion within AirAsia India. I am not aware of any such thing,” he said.

Arun Bhatia of Telstra Tradeplace, a 21 per cent stakeholder in AirAsia India, had reportedly called the Tata-SIA joint venture unethical and also alleged that he was not informed about the deal.