Air India disinvestment: After years of waiting, who will finally take over Maharaja-Air India? The Center is expected to announce the name of the winning bidder for debt-ridden national carrier Air India today.
According to a Hindu Businessline report, the Tata group will take back the airline after a hiatus of 68 years, which it started and ran before nationalisation.
A committee of ministers on national carrier disinvestment, headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, is scrutinizing the bids based on the recommendations given by a panel of secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary and will announce the winner.
Meanwhile, several media reports had earlier claimed that Air India is likely to return to its founders, however, the central government denied the media reports, calling them false.
“The media reports approving the financial bids by the Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect. The media will be informed about the government’s decision when it is taken,” the DIPAM secretary tweeted earlier.
Earlier, the Center had evaluated the financial bids received from the Tata group and the SpiceJet founder for the acquisition of Air India.
Financial bids were evaluated on the basis of an undisclosed reserve price and the bid offering the highest price above that benchmark was accepted.
It marks the return of Air India to Tata after 68 years. The Tata group established Air India as Tata Airlines in October 1932. The government nationalized the airline in 1953.
The government is selling its 100 per cent stake in the state-owned national airline, which includes Air India’s 100 per cent stake in AI Express Ltd and a 50 per cent stake in Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd.
The stake sale process, which began in January 2020, faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021, the government asked potential bidders to make financial bids. The last date for financial bidding was September 15.
The Tata group was among several entities that had given an initial expression of interest (EoI) in December 2020 to buy the Maharaja.
Air India has been making losses since its merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007. The airline, created by Tata as a mail carrier in 1932, would give control of 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots to the successful bidder. 900 slots at domestic airports, as well as at airports abroad. In addition, the bidder will get 100 per cent of the low-cost Air India Express and 50 per cent of AISATS, which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports.