MUMBAI: The government is giving a new thrust to strengthen Air India's management practices and operational efficiencies while the disinvestment plan would depend on various circumstances, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said today.
The strategic disinvestment plan for debt-laden Air India did not take off after it failed to attract any bidder when the deadline for submitting preliminary bids ended on May 31.
Against this backdrop, Goyal said there is a new thrust being given to further strengthen management practices and improve operational efficiencies of the airline.
"In the next 18 months, you will see the visible change," the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.
About the failed disinvestment proposal, a senior government official said the rise in oil prices has stressed out a lot of companies in India as well as internationally.
"If you see the balance sheets of all airline companies worldwide, (they have) suddenly taken a turn to the worse in the last three to four months. In that sense, it was not the most conducive times. This phase will pass out and we will have enough interest to once again go into the market and sell," the official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the official, a good management at the airline can help turn the airline profitable in a year-and-a-half.
There would be improvement in the functioning of Air India and that would "help us get a better value," he added.
On the likely timeline for Air India disinvestment, Goyal today said it would depend on "too many international circumstances" but emphasised that the plan is on.
Under the proposed plan, the government was to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India along with complete divestment of low-cost arm Air India Express and a 50 per cent stake in Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd -- an equal joint venture with Singapore's SATS.
Last week, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu had said that a plan is being prepared by the airline's management to ensure that it continues to operate efficiently.
"We are reviewing the situation from time to time. We will definitely make sure what is in the best interest of short-term, medium-term and long-term interest of Air India will be done," Prabhu had said.