Government To Seek Air India Initial Bids In Next Few Weeks: Hardeep Singh Puri
A worker sweeps a puddle near an Air India aircraft in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg News)

Government To Seek Air India Initial Bids In Next Few Weeks: Hardeep Singh Puri

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The Ministry of Civil Aviation will try to issue expression of interest for Air India’s sale in the next few weeks, Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, Puri said that while his ministry is the nodal ministry for aviation, he was not in charge of disinvestment.

"Air India is a first class airline, but there are no two views that privatisation has to be done. We are not slaves of certain deadlines; we are trying to do it (disinvestment) as quickly as possible," he said.

Air India is saddled with debt of around Rs 60,000 crore, half of which is parked with a special purpose vehicle—Air India Asset Holding Ltd. The airline net loss has been provisionally estimated at Rs 8,556.35 crore in 2018-19. The government has infused Rs 30,520.21 crore in the flag carrier from 2011-12 till December this year.

To be sure, the government is working out the modalities for its divestment from Air India. The Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism has approved re-initiation of a process for the government's 100 percent stake sale in Air India, along with Air India Express and the carrier's stake in joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt. Ltd.

Predatory Pricing

Puri also pointed out the issue of predatory pricing in airfares but said the ministry has no plans of regulating flight ticket prices.

"We need to bring equilibrium within the market. Can't say predatory pricing is the only reason for ill health of airlines, it is one of the reasons,” the civil aviation minister said. “After discussion with airlines, the trend of predatory pricing has reduced. Our advice to airlines is to charge realistic fares.”

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