Nearly seven decades after exit, Tata Group seeks to board Air India yet again

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Today is the last day for submission of Expression of Interest for Air India. The Tata Group is currently operating two airlines: the full service carrier Vistara and AirAsia India

Nearly seven decades after exit, Tata Group seeks to board Air India yet again

Representational image. News18

New Delhi: Tata Group is seeking to board Air India again after nearly seven decades, with the salt-to-software conglomerate set to participate in the bidding process for the national carrier, sources said on Monday.

The last date for submission of Expression of Interest (EoI) for Air India is Monday.

At present, the Tata Group is operating two airlines: the full service carrier Vistara in association with Singapore and AirAsia India, for which it has collaborated with Malaysian airliners group AirAsia.

The Narendra Modi government has already taken one attempt to privatise Air India in the last three years, which came a cropper.

However, the government re-initiated the disinvestment process of Air India early this year.

Sources said Tata Sons is “interested” in acquiring Air India and will meet the government deadline for expressing the same.

The holding and promoter firm of the Tata Group companies has, however, not decided as yet whether it will go solo or bid through a partner, the sources said.

When contacted, a Tata Sons spokesperson declined to comment.

An AirAsia India spokesperson, in response to a query sent to its Chief Executive Officer Sunil Bhaskaran, refused to comment.

“We would not be responding to the query,” said the spokesperson.

A group representing as many as 209 Air India employees have also put in a bid for the national carrier, the airline’s Commercial Director Meenakshi Mallik said.

“We submitted the bids today (Monday) morning for acquiring the full (entire 100 percent stake) company,” Mallik, who initiated the employees” participation, told PTI.

Earlier, a section of Air India employees said that they were looking to bid for the airline in partnership with a private equity fund and each employee was asked to contribute Rs 1 lakh towards the bid.

In January, the government invited bids for selling 100 percent of its holding in Air India and its international budget arm Air India Express Ltd and 50 percent in ground handling joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services Private Ltd.

As per the Air India EoI floated by DIPAM in January, of the airline’s total debt of Rs 60,074 crore as of 31 March, 2019, the buyer would be required to absorb Rs 23,286.5 crore, while the rest would be transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle.

On 10 December, the government said that the interested entities are required to submit the physical bids within 15 days from 14 December: the last date for submitting EoIs.

The Centre said it will intimate qualified interested bidders (QIBs) of Air India on 5 January, 2021, instead of the earlier decided date of 29 December, 2020.

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