Air India privatisation has to be done, but no deadline yet: Hardeep Singh Puri

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Published: January 1, 2020 4:30:51 AM

This could mean that there is a possibility that the airline sale process may not be completed in the current financial year.

In a debt recast earlier this fiscal, the Centre took over Rs 29,464 crore from AI's books through a special purpose vehicle.In a debt recast earlier this fiscal, the Centre took over Rs 29,464 crore from AI’s books through a special purpose vehicle.

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri on Tuesday said expression of interest (EoI) document for Air India could be out in the coming weeks but there is no fixed timeline for its sale. This could mean that there is a possibility that the airline sale process may not be completed in the current financial year.

“Air India is a first class airline, but there are no two views that privatisation has to be done. We are not slaves of certain deadlines; we are trying to do it (disinvestment) as quickly as possible,” Puri told reporters.

The minister had told the Parliament in November that the national carrier will have to close down if it is not sold as it incurs Rs 26 crore loss every day. The airline’s provisional loss in 2018-19 stood at Rs 8,556 crore, up 35% year-on-year due to high interest burden and tough operating environment for the industry.

Puri said the government expects investors’ interest for the airline since it has a robust domestic and international service network. “Air India is a service provider running a large number of domestic routes. It has international routes. We want an Indian entity to acquire it for strategic objectives,” Puri added.
The government, which could not sell 76% in the debt-laden carrier last year, will be offering 100% stake this time around. It has relaxed several conditions, including substantial restructuring of debt and liabilities.

The total debt and liabilities of Air India have risen to about Rs 73,255 crore at March 2019 end, including a debt of Rs 58,255 crore and liabilities of Rs 15,000 crore. In a debt recast earlier this fiscal, the Centre took over Rs 29,464 crore from AI’s books through a special purpose vehicle.

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