The government will stick to the September 15 deadline for investors to put in bids for buying national carrier Air India, an official said. This is in stark contrast to the extension of deadline for preliminary bids five times. Salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group was among the “multiple” entities that had put in preliminary bids for buying loss-making Air India in December last year.
After analysing the preliminary bids, eligible bidders were given access to the Virtual Data Room (VDR) of Air India for doing due diligence, following which investors’ queries were answered. Following that, in April the government had initiated the process for inviting financial bids and fixed September 15 as the deadline for putting in bids. The official said once the bids come in by September 15, the government will decide on the reserve price. The deal is expected to be closed by December-end. In July, Minister of State for Civil Aviation V K Singh had informed Parliament that financial bids for the carrier will be received by September 15.
The government is selling its entire 100 per cent stake in Air India that has been in losses ever since its merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007. The stake sale process got delayed due to the pandemic and the government had extended five times the deadline to submit preliminary bids for the national carrier. The airline, which started as a mail carrier in 1932, will give the successful bidder control of 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, as well as 900 slots at airports overseas.
Besides, the bidder would get 100 per cent of the low-cost arm Air India Express and 50 per cent of AISATS, which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports. With previous attempts since 2017 failing to get any significant interest, the government had this time sweetened the deal by giving freedom to potential suitors to decide how much of the airline’s debt they want to take on as part of the transaction. Previously, the bidders were required to take over the entire Rs 60,074 crore debt.