Air India stake sale: Even as the state-run carrier Air India failed to garner any bids, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal reiterated that the government is confident of finding bidders for its proposed plan. “We are quite confident that it will go through and we will be meeting among ourselves,” Piyush Goyal told in an interview to ET Now. Notably, the government has drawn a blank on the 76% stake sale in Air India, the deal with even potential bidders IndiGo and Tata Group staying away. According to industry insiders, those eyeing a stake in the carrier were probably spooked by the government’s insistence on retaining a 24% stake despite suggestions it should exit the airline completely, Financial Express reported. Piyush Goyal attributed the scarcity of interest to high oil prices, saying that the “time is not right.”
According to the minister, the privatisation of national carrier will happen smoothly, and all that is required is a pragmatic meeting and discussion with the stakeholders for more transparency on the current issues hindering the deal. “We will also try and see if we can engage with the shareholders and see what are the constraints because of which they were not able to express interest in this bid. But we have an open mind and we should take it in its stride that if this deal, in its present form, did not find any bids,” Piyush Goyal said.
The government plans to sell up to 76% stake in the Air India. The divestment would include profit-making Air India Express and joint venture AISATS, an equal joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore-based SATS. Providing more time, the last date for submission of Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for Air India disinvestment was extended to May 31 from the earlier deadline of May 14. Selling the state carrier is key to the government’s plan to divest assets and help keep the fiscal deficit at 3.3 percent of GDP, a goal already under pressure from giveaways to farmers and other welfare benefits ahead of a national election in 2019, says a Reuters report.