Govt for Air India divestment, but present process over

Govt for Air India divestment, but present process over

The government on Wednesday said its recent process surrounding the disinvestment of Air India is "over", after it failed to attract any bidders last month, but emphasised that it is "committed" to the divesting of its stake in the flag carrier.

The assertion came amid reports that the plans to sell a majority stake of Air India is now shelved keeping in mind that it may not go down well in an election year.

"We ran a disinvestment process... nobody showed any interest... it is clear that the process is over. We have to consider other alternatives. We will consider all other alternatives. The government is committed to the strategic disinvestment of Air India," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told a press conference in the presence of his senior minister Suresh Prabhu.

His remarks came to a question whether the plan for strategic disinvestment of the national carrier is "on or off", following the government failing to get any bidder.

Not a single bidder had responded to the government's Expression of Interest till the deadline of May 31. Under the plan, the government was to sell 76% stake in Air India along with complete divestment of low-cost arm Air India Express and 50% stake in Air India SATS Airport Services - an equal joint venture with Singapore's SATS.

Prabhu said a plan is being worked out by the Air India board and the situation was reviewed after the proposed strategic stake sale failed to attract any bidders. Union Minister Arun Jaitley is heading a Group of Ministers to find ways to divest stakes in Air India and they are reviewing the situation.

"It is suffering from quite a lot of legacy issues. One is the huge debt. We reviewed the situation. In the meantime, a plan is being prepared," he said.

On the plans, Prabhu said the government is now focusing on developing airports. “For sustainable growth of the aviation sector, we need more airports. But availability of land is a problem. We are consulting experts on how to develop airports with less availability of land,” he said.

Prabhu also said the government is coming out with a cargo policy. “Airspace available during nights when domestic travel is less and could be used for air cargo. With the economy growing, cargo movement will dramatically increase, we need to be ready. Will also help in agriculture exports,” he said.