A foreign player has formally written to the government expressing its interest in buying 49 per cent stake in Air India, a senior official in the ministry of civil aviation said. Last year, the government had given its nod for the disinvestment of Air India. The expression of interest from a private entity came weeks after the Union Cabinet allowed foreign investments, including from foreign airlines, to up to 49 per cent in Air India. However, the substantial ownership and effective control of the airline will have to be vested in an Indian national. “A foreign entity has submitted an unsolicited expression of interest for 49 per cent stake in Air India,” Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation said. The official, however, did not comment on whether the entity was a foreign airline. The call for expression of interest for Air India’s disinvestment is also likely to be issued by the government shortly. Among the foreign carriers, Singapore Airlines has said it would keep its options open on Air India disinvestment.
IndiGo is so far the only other entity which has formally expressed interest in buying stakes in the national carrier, particularly, its international operations. Aviation services providers Celebi and Bird Group have also evinced interest in the ground-handling arm of Air India — Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL). The Union Cabinet has formed an inter-ministerial group to chalk out a strategy for Air India’s stake sale. As on September last year, the national carrier has a debt of Rs 51,890 crore.