Air India is public asset, can't be sold cheap: Prabhu

With Air India's stake sale stuck on the runway, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Saturday said the debt-laden aviation behemoth is a public asset and the government cannot offload it at throwaway prices.

“It is a public asset and we have to get the right price for it. Besides, people in India have some kind of relationship with Air India. Recently, fears were voiced if Air India will acquire a new name after sale.. so it is not a simple issue to deal with but we are working on it...,” he told reporters here.

Prabhu said the market conditions were not favourable at the moment. The aviation industry across the globe was going through a rough patch due to higher crude oil prices.

The government had decided to offload 76% of its stake in the debt-laden airlines, which is staying afloat on tax-payers' money, but so far has got no bidders.

The minister said the aviation behemoth was weighed down by its past debts. The government was waiting for the “right time and price”, he added.

The airline, which had an outstanding debt of over Rs 48,781 crore as of March 2017, recently floated a tender to raise Rs 1,000 crore short-term loans to pay salaries to its staff.

The airline also went for a makeover exercise, introducing Maharaja business class seats on its international flights in a bid to attract more passengers on its foreign routes.

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Air India is public asset, can't be sold cheap: Prabhu

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