For Air India, choice is between disinvestment & closing down: Puri

  • While terming the national carrier as a “first-rate asset,” the minister said that the company has accumulated a debt of Rs 60,000 crore

  • We need to draw the slate clean, said Puri

New Delhi: Asserting that Air India will be disinvested 100 percent, Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri has said that the choice, for Air India, is not between disinvestment and non-disinvestment, but between disinvestment and closing down. While terming the national carrier as a “first-rate asset,” the minister said that the company has accumulated a debt of Rs 60,000 crore, and it must find a new home. 

“We’ve decided that Air India will be 100 percent disinvested. The choice isn’t between disinvestment and non-disinvestment. It’s between disinvestment and closing down. Air India is a first-rate asset but has an accumulated debt of Rs 60,000 crore. We need to draw the slate clean,” said Puri on Saturday. He added, “It must find a new home.”

Air India disinvestment: Buyers given 64 days to come up with bids

Commenting on the progress of the Air India disinvestment process, Puri said that prospective bidders have been given 64 days to come in with bids. “In the last meeting, on Monday, it was decided that the shortlisted bidders (for Air India disinvestment) be informed that the bids have to come in within 64 days…This time the government is determined and there is no hesitation,” said the minister.

The backdrop

The deadline for submission of Expression of Interest (EoI) closed for Air India disinvestment process in December 2020 with multiple entities showing interest. In the Budget 2021-22, the government had announced the allocation of Rs 2,268 crore for a special purpose vehicle set up as part of financial restructuring of Air India. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also said that the disinvestment of Air India and Pawan Hans would be completed in FY22. 

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The government had floated a preliminary information memorandum in 2018 to offload 76 percent stake in Air India and offer management control to the private sector. However, the process did not elicit any interest from the industry.

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