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Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 15 : 00 PM [IST]

Government considers selling 51% stake in Air India

As per the Bloomberg report, Government of India is considering selling a majority stake in Air India to a strategic partner after a USD 3.6 billion bailout failed to turn around the loss making national carrier, people with knowledge of the matter said. The proposal includes reviving Air India within five years of selling a 51% stake, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public.

Talks are at an initial stage and presentations have been made to the finance ministry and the prime minister’s office, they added. The government isn’t planning to sell 51% stake in the carrier, said RN Choubey, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India in New Delhi.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration will have to tackle the airline’s about USD 7 billion of debt to make Air India attractive to investors, according to Mark Martin, founder of Dubai-based Martin Consulting LLC.

Air India has been unprofitable for a decade with taxpayers bailing it out in the past six years. “It’s a welcome step but premature,” said Martin. “The government should first set its house in order by amortising and restructuring the debt before it tries to find someone who will buy 51%.”

India’s finance ministry wants the plan to be discussed in detail to avoid a situation where there are no buyers after the offer is announced, the people said. The carrier’s share in the local market has shrunk to 14% from 35% a decade back, placing it third in the national ranking. The company made an operating profit of about INR 100 crore (USD 15 million) in the year through March 2016, aided by a drop in oil prices.

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