Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Puri said that earlier attempts at privatisation were not successful because the attempts were "half hearted".

Air India airplane
Atom Disinvestment Saturday, March 27, 2021 - 18:35

The much-delayed privatisation of Air India is likely to complete in the first half of this year, and Air India will be privatised 100%, said Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday. Speaking at the Times Network India Economic Conclave, Puri said that earlier attempts at privatisation were not successful because the attempts were "half hearted".

He added that financial bids for the national carrier will be submitted sometime in May. He said that the timeline for the submission of financial bids was decided in a meeting on Thursday. "We have decided Air India will be disinvested; we have to keep it running till it gets disinvested. We are looking at another timeline now, what is called data room for prospective bidders to look at... that is opened up, 64 days for the financial bids to come in. After that it is the question of taking a decision and handing over the airline," Puri said.

He added that this time they have decided that there is no choice — it was to either privatise the airline or close the airline down. He said that the airline currently runs a loss of Rs 20 crore each day despite the it presently making money.

“The mismanagement resulted in cumulative debt of Rs 60,000 crore. To service that debt — I don’t have the capacity to keep going to Nirmala ji and say please give a little more money, he said. “People will buy the airline or have shown interest because it’s a firs-rate national asset. If you clear the decks and run it afresh, bring in modern management, avoid the mistakes of the past, it will still be Air India but it will be in the hands of someone who knows how to run an airline,” he added.

The airline, which did not attract any buyer for long now, has witnessed Tata Sons and SpiceJet's promoter Ajay Singh come up as potential bidders, according to reports. Further, reports suggested that Ajay Singh has partnered with Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority, and Ankur Bhatia, promoter of Delhi-based Bird Group, to jointly place the bid for Air India.

DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey had earlier said that the government has received multiple expressions of interest for the strategic disinvestment of Air India.

The process has been divided into two stages. In stage one, expressions of interest have been submitted by the interested bidders and these will be shortlisted based on the eligibility criteria and other terms mentioned in the Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM). In stage two, the shortlisted interested bidders will be provided with a request for proposal (RFP) and thereafter there will be a transparent bidding process.

A group of 209 employees of Air India had also put in a bid. Essar and Pavan Ruia of Dunlop and Falcon Tyres had also put in bids for Air India.

The privatisation of the airline has already faced several hurdles with initial lack of interest for the airline. In view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last date for submission of expressions of interest (EOIs) was extended up to December 14, 2020.

With IANS inputs