NEW DELHI: The Central government is all to divest its stake in the national carrier Air India and is expected to invite bids for the same by the end of this month or early November.According to sources, the government is looking to make the proposal as lucrative as possible, which includes 100 per cent stake sale, to achieve its goal.
The Centre has already formed a high-level inter-ministerial panel headed by home minister Amit Shah, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri and Railways and Trade Minister Piyush Goyal as members, to make sure everything goes as per the plan and the stake sale does not meet last year’s fate when there were zero takers.
The government’s previous attempt to sell Air India in March 2018 turned out to be big disappointment as no investors were comfortable with existing clauses such as the government retaining 24 per cent stake in the airline, and saddling the new buyer with the carrier’s existing debt proved a huge deterrent.The panel is likely to meet this month again before a formal announcement is made on privatisation of the airline.
The other big goal the government wants to achieve by privatising the Maharaja is to meet its divestment target for the current fiscal. Air India’s sale is crucial as the government hopes to meet its highest-ever divestment target of `1.05 lakh crore in FY2020.Air India, whose fleet includes 128 aircraft, has seen its net debt rising to nearly 60,000 crore. It has so far been surviving on a `30,000 crore government bailout package.