Tata, SpiceJet among bidders for Air India

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Tata Sons and SpiceJet are among the multiple bidders who have submitted bids to buy the national carrier Air India. The government on Wednesday said it has received multiple financial bids.

While, a Tata Sons spokesperson told PTI that it has put in a bid for the airline, SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh is believed to have partnered with other entities for the bid.

“Financial bids for Air India disinvestment received by Transaction Adviser. Process now moves to concluding stage,” DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey tweeted.

The government is seeking to sell 100 per cent of its stake in the state-owned national airline, including Air India’s 100 per cent shareholding in AI Express Ltd and 50 per cent in Air India SATS Airport Services Private Ltd.

The stake sale process, which begun on January 2020, faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021, the government asked potential bidders to put in financial bids.

Wednesday (September 15) was the last day for putting in financial bids.

Tata Group was among the multiple entities that had put in initial expression of interest (EoI) in December 2020 for buying the Maharaja.

Tatas set up Tata Airlines in 1932, which was later renamed as Air India in 1946. The government took over the airline in 1953 but J.R.D. Tata continued to be its chairman till 1977.

With previous attempts since 2017 failing to get any significant interest and after receiving feedback from potential investors, the government had in October last year sweetened the EoI clause relating to transfer of Air India’s debt to the new investor, giving bidders flexibility to decide on the quantum of humongous debt they want to absorb.

As per the Air India EoI floated by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) in January 2020, of the airline’s total debt of Rs 60,074 crore as of March 31, 2019, the buyer would be required to absorb Rs 23,286.5 crore. The rest would be transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle.

Air India has been in losses ever since its merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007.

The airline, which was formed by the Tatas as a mail carrier in 1932, will give the successful bidder control of 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, as well as 900 slots at airports overseas.

Besides, the bidder would get 100 per cent of the low-cost arm Air India Express and 50 per cent of AISATS, which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports.

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