The government will not extend the May 31 deadline it had set for submission of Expressions of Interest (EoIs) in Air India, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Chaubey said. No bids were received so far from any private players, he added. The deadline was earlier extended from May 14 to May 31.
Choubey, however, appeared optimistic as the deadline draws near. “We expect good response before bid closes tomorrow,” he told PTI. The government could decide against selling its stake in the airline, he said, if the bids do not match its expectations. “The government has the right to sell or not to sell Air India if the bid price is found to be inadequate,” Choubey had told reporters.
“Though the transaction advisor (EY) will assess the enterprise value, the right price for the airline will be decided by us,” he said. Asked about AI employees’ union protests against the proposed sale, he said they were conscious of the fact that airlines would do well after privatisation.
The government plans to divest a 76 per cent stake in the loss-making, state-owned carrier. The state-owned airline is laden with debts running into thousands of crores. Despite a few players making initial queries regarding the sale of the majority stake, there haven’t been any bids so far. The government plans to announce the qualified bids, if they are any, on June 15.
The government has clarified earlier that the new owner does not need to take the company public within three years of purchase. It, however, plans to remain a minority stakeholder without holding any special rights.
Major airlines such as IndiGo, Jet Airways, Emirates and Qatar have decided against entering the race, according to reports. The Tata Group is also unlikely to submit a bid, according to a report in Reuters.
The government has bundled the sale of 76 per cent in Air India along with 100 per cent stake in Air India Express Ltd, its low-cost international carrier, and 50 per cent in Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd. It doesn’t plan on selling individual operations of the airline separately.