Debt-ridden Air India will be offered for sale in the next few weeks, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday describing the national air carrier as a “great brand” and one of the better airlines in the world.
However, Puri also pointed out that the airline continued to turn in a loss of anywhere between Rs 22 crore and Rs 26 crore every day and required a new business model, an issue that would be addressed through privatisation.
On the positive side, the minister said Air India had a robust network in the domestic and international markets, a great brand and would to be an asset for any buyer.
“Air India is widely regarded as one of the better airlines in the world. Air India over a period of time has now gathered an unsustainable debt,” Puri told reporters here.
He dismissed as “hypothetical” reports that Air India would be shut down if the government could not find a buyer within the next six months. “Don't go by the statements. Whoever made the statement is expressing a broad sentiment,” he said.
India's largest domestic carrier IndiGo has evinced interest in the foreign operations of Air India, but the government is averse to piecemeal disinvestment. Reports had it that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Hinduja Group had also shown interest in Air India.
Puri also said that the Centre would issue a revised Expression of Interest for Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited in the next few weeks. He said the old bids that were received were not valid, prompting the government to come up revised EoI.
Government owns 51% of Pawan Hans while ONGC has the balance 49% stake in the helicopter services company.
Puri also said that the government was committed to privatisation of six more airports, process for which has been set into rolling by the Airports Authority of India.
He pointed out that the AAI was set to earn Rs 2300 crore as upfront payment on account of privatisation of six airports – Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Lucknow.