Air India stake sale: Even as the final bidder for debt-heavy state run carrier Air India still remains a puzzle, IndiGo airlines has denied reports of ongoing discussions with Qatar Airways for a joint bid. The country’s largest airline by market share, IndiGo Airlines said in a statement on Wednesday, “While IndiGo normally doesn’t respond to rumors, in this particular instance, we would like to state that there are no ongoing discussions of this nature.” Interestingly, Qatar Airways had also denied media reports of its joint bid for acquiring beleaguered India’s state-run carrier. Media reports had earlier indicated that there were ongoing discussions and the two are considering a joint consortium bid for a stake in the beleaguered carrier.
In February this year, Civil Aviation Minister Gajapathi Raju told reporters that any ‘unsolicited expression of interest’ in Air India is no longer relevant and no final decision has been made as yet. Interestingly, while amid reports of many foreign airlines queuing up to pick up a stake in the company, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey had confirmed in February-18 that a foreign company has expressed interest in acquiring up to 49% stake in Air india.
Choubey had said that the foreign player has shown an “unsolicited expression of interest for AI’s (Air India’s ) airline arm.” According to media reports, prominent names including Singapore Airlines and Vistara, are reportedly in talks with the Indian government to pick up an equity stake in the debt-heavy national carrier.
The civil aviation ministry had confirmed last year that IndiGo had expressed interest in buying the carrier. IndiGo was interested in buying a stake in the overseas flights of Air India, if the government broke and sold the domestic and international flights as separate entities.
While regulations currently permit 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) into Indian airline companies under the automatic route, the Union Cabinet has mandated different regulations for the state-run carrier Air India. Accordingly, foreign airlines can invest only up to 49% under the approval route, under the condition that substantial ownership and effective control of Air India shall remain with an Indian National.