KOCHI: The Kochi airport, India’s first airport built on a public-private partnership, will soon have a new stakeholder — the Tatas, the country’s biggest conglomerate. This follows the Tata Sons’ acquisition of loss-making national airline Air India in October this year. Air India owns a 3.267% equity stake in the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL), which runs one of the most professional airports in the country.
The Kochi airport is also a strategic hub connecting India with West Asian countries. The Tata group’s acquisition of Air India is expected to be complete early next year.
According to disinvestment documents, as reported by the Business Standard, Air India’s equity stake in Kochi airport has not been transferred to Air India Asset Holdings Ltd (AIAHL) as part of the pre-sale restructuring plan under which select assets and debts of the national airline were hived off to the books of AIAHL.
Air India had invested around Rs 45 crore in CIAL, according to the report. The disinvestment documents say the equity stake in CIAL would stay with the buyer. When contacted, the Kochi airport spokesman said: “There is nothing to say from our side. The decision is vested with Air India.” Tata Sons did not wish to comment on the matter.
On October 9, Tata Sons signed an agreement to buy 100% stake in Air India for Rs 18,000 crore.
The Kerala government, which holds nearly 32.42%, is the largest shareholder in CIAL. NRI billionaire Yusuffali M A has been acquiring shares in the airport quietly in recent years and is the second-largest shareholder with around 10%. Kochi-based Synthite Industries owns 6.53%. Central PSUs BPCL (3.43%), Housing and Urban Development Corporation (3.285%) and the State Bank of India (3.267%) are the other big investors. There are other 18,000 small investors in CIAL, whose combined ownership is less than 10%.
The Kochi airport has consistently been reporting healthy profits of around Rs 170-200 crore over the past six years, with the exception of 2020-21, which is attributed to the Covid outbreak and the subsequent closure of airports. On a turnover of Rs 252.71 crore, the airport registered a loss of Rs 87.21 crore in 2020-21. In 2019-20, the Kochi airport reported a net profit of Rs 215.13 crore on a turnover of Rs 655.05 crore.