Tata Group is believed to be discussing buying a stake in debt-laden Air India amid the government looking at various options, including full or partial privatisation, to revive the national carrier, sources said. When contacted, a Tata group spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on speculations.”
Staying afloat on taxpayers’ money, Air India has been in the red for long and various proposals, including government think-tank Niti Aayog’s suggestion for complete privatisation, have been made. Sources said Tata group is evaluating options on buying stake in Air India.
In this regard, there have been internal meetings as well as meetings with government representatives, sources added. There was no official word from the government but sources said the Civil Aviation Ministry is keen on retaining the national carrier status of Air India.
One scenario being discussed is that the government would retain 51 per cent stake and the rest 49 per cent could be sold to private players, which could include foreign players.
Sources said in such a situation, the government would have majority stake but operational control would be with the minority stakeholder.
The government is also looking at various options such as selling off non-core assets to reduce the airline’s debt burden. For the Tatas, it would be more of a homecoming.
Air India traces its roots to Tata Airlines, which was formed back in 1932. Set up by Tatas, the carrier was made a public company and was rechristened as Air India. Later, it was nationalised.
Earlier also, Tatas had tried to acquire stake in Air India. Currently, Air India has a debt of more than Rs 52,000 crore.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said inter-ministerial consultations on the future course of action for Air India have been completed and the Cabinet would decide on how best to move forward.
Recently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the aviation ministry has to explore all possibilities “as to how the privatisation of Air India can be done”. Tatas already have two airline joint ventures — Vistara and AirAsia India.