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Government may relook at Air India stake sale strategy: Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey

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NEW DELHI: The Civil Aviation Ministry today said it was expecting better participation for the Air India stake sale and indicated that there could be a rethink on the strategy after the disinvestment failed to attract any initial bids.

The deadline for submission of Expression of Interest (EoI) ended today and did not elicit any response from potential bidders.

“We were looking forward for better participation,” Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said.

The alternative mechanism headed by the Finance Minister would decide on the future course of action on Air India disinvestment, Choubey said even as he emphasised that the government would not like the airline to lose the market share.

Speaking to reporters soon after the deadline for the submission of the EoI ended, he indicated that there could be a rethink on the disinvestment strategy.

The government will ensure that the airline does not face “any operational difficulties following the latest developments”.

He was responding to a query on whether the airline would now be having more financial uncertainties as there are decisions linked to the outcome of the disinvestment process.

“As informed by the Transaction Adviser, no response has been received for the Expression of Interest floated for the strategic disinvestment of Air India,” the Civil Aviation Ministry.

“Further course of action will be decided appropriately,” it added.

EY is the transaction adviser for the process.

The government has proposed to offload 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players, as per the preliminary information memorandum.

The transaction will involve Air India, its low cost arm Air India Express and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd. The latter is an equal joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore-based SATS Ltd.

The ailing airline’s total debt stood at over Rs 48,000 crore at the end of March 2017.

In April, both IndiGo and Jet Airways had said that they would not be participating in the Air India disinvestment process. IndiGo was the first to evince interest in Air India disinvestment when the government had mooted the plan last year.

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