NEW DELHI: After a months-long delay, the Centre is likely to invite Expressions of Interest (EoI) to sell off its stakes in the national carrier Air India next month. It has been working extensively for some time to formalise the final draft and make the second round of divestment as attractive as possible for buyers.
“The preliminary bid to sell stake in Air India will be floated next month as we look forward to completing the exercise before March 31, 2020,” said a senior government official, without revealing whether the government would ease up the much talked about privatisation norms.
He, however, added that the government is likely to fully exit the airline, and that several global players have shown interest in the debt-laden airline.
Earlier this week, American carrier Delta Air Lines had spoken of a possibility of it investing in Air India.
“We will look at any opportunity... If the opportunity presented fits into Delta’s overall strategic plan, we will look seriously at it,” Jimmy Eichelgruen, director of sales for Africa, Middle-East and India, Delta Air Lines, told PTI.
Air India’s employees’ unions, however, continue to oppose the stake sale. Over half a dozen unions on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding waiver of the airline’s loans and let professional management run it.
“Air India has been reporting an operational profit for as long as three years. Servicing the loans is a major challenge as the annual outgo is upwards of Rs 4,000 crore. We have immense faith that taking these actions will indeed find Air India in the league of profit-making carriers once again,” they wrote.
Air India has debts of over Rs 58,000 crore, besides huge accumulated losses running into thousands of crores of rupees. Last month, MoS for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri told Parliament the carrier will have to shut business if it is not privatised. It, however, received a Rs 500 crore guarantee from government on Friday.