The Union government proposes to wrap up the divestment of Air India by the middle of next month with the announcement of winning bid for the national carrier. Sources indicated that tentatively October 15 has been kept the date for announcing the winning bid for Air India while the financial bids received for the carrier may be opened anytime this week.
The Union government on September 15 received multiple financial bids for divestment of Air India. Accordingly, Tata Sons and industrialist Ajay Singh in his personal capacity are believed to have submitted financial bids for Air India.
Sources indicated while Tatas are frontrunners to get hold of the carrier, all bids would be evaluated on various parameters and the winning bidder would be announced after approval of the group of ministers (GoM) headed by the home minister.
Taking to Twitter, DIPAM Secretary, Tuhin Kanta Pandey had earlier said that the disinvestment process has moved to the concluding stage. "Financial bids for Air India disinvestment received by Transaction Adviser. Process now moves to the concluding stage," he had posted earlier this month.
The Tatas bid was much-anticipated as its name had been doing the rounds for some time now.
The government has of late taken several steps to fast-track the much-delayed privatisation of the national carrier.
Recently, the government decided to waive taxes on the transfer of assets from the national carrier to Air India Assets Holding Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
During the Budget speech for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the proposed privatisation process would be completed by the end of the fiscal, including the much-delayed strategic disinvestment of Air India.
Earlier, a few interested parties, including the Tatas were selected for the bidding round.
This is the second attempt of the current Central government to divest its stake in the airline.
In the pre-pandemic era, the airline, on a standalone basis, operated over 50 domestic and more than 40 international destinations. Besides, it operated over 120 aircraft prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that period, the airline had over 9,000 permanent and 4,000 contractual employees.