Air India has been “consistently improving” its overall performance and more than doubled its operating profit to Rs 298.03 crore in the last financial year, according to the government. The net loss of the state-owned airline however widened to Rs 5,765.16 crore in 2016-17. The divestment-bound national carrier had an operating profit of Rs 105 crore in 2015-16. “Air India has been consistently improving its overall financial and operational performance since the implementation of the turnaround plan by the government,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha today. In 2015-16, Air India had an operating profit of Rs 105 crore while net loss stood at Rs 3,836.77 crore. The previous UPA government, in 2012, had approved a turnaround plan under which Air India is to receive a total equity infusion worth Rs 30,231 crore up to 2021 subject to meeting certain performance thresholds.
Out of the total amount, Rs 26,545.21 crore has already been infused into the airline till now. As part of the turnaround plan, Air India has been taking various measures, including rationalisation of routes and enhanced utilisation of aircraft. The airline’s total loans amounted to Rs 48,447.37 crore in 2016-17. This includes aircraft and working capital loans of Rs 17,359.61 crore and Rs 31,087.76 crore, respectively. Sinha said the draft expression of interest document inviting proposal for the airline’s disinvestment is yet to be finalised by the Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM).
“Formal proposals from prospective bidders would be received thereafter only. Any unsolicited expressions of interest at this stage are not relevant,” he said. In June 2016, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had given its in-principle approval for considering strategic disinvestment of Air India and its five subsidiaries. It also constituted the AISAM, which is headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The panel would decide on hiving off certain assets to a shell company, the entities to be offered for sale during the bidding process, the quantum of disinvestment and the universe of bidders, Sinha said in a separate reply. To another reply, he said the Air India Museum project has been put on hold due to the ongoing disinvestment process. There was a proposal to set up a museum of arts and crafts in Mumbai to showcase the collection of Air India.