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“Incorrect”: Govt after media reports on Tata Sons winning Air India bid

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The government has refuted media reports claiming that Tata Group has won the bid for the debt-laden airlines, Air India. To note, a media report had earlier predicted that the Tata’s would re-acquire the national carrier more than half a century after ceding control to the government.

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“Media reports indicating approval of financial bids by Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect,” the finance ministry said on Friday, adding the media will be informed of any decision “as and when it is taken.”

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Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for the embattled state-run Air India earlier this month. In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage.

This has been the second attempt by the PM Modi-led government to sell Air India. The centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt.

Air India has accumulated losses of over ₹ 70,000 crore and the government loses nearly ₹ 20 crore to run the national carrier every day, according to reports. The beleaguered airline, which one ruled the India skies, began to lose ground with the advent of private carriers in the 1990s and the emergence of no-frill airlines in the mid-2000s. The merger with the state-owned domestic airline Indian Airlines in 2007 proved to be the final nail in the coffin, for Air India.

But despite its precarious finances, Air India still controls more than 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, and 900 slots overseas. And the winning bidder will not only hold 100 per cent stake in Air India and its low-cost arm Air India Express, but also a 50 per cent stake in ground handling company Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AISATS).

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