New Delhi: Amid reports emerge that Tata Sons has become the top bidder for the takeover of debt-laden state-run airline Air India, quoting sources IANS reports that the new owners of Air India will be decided in the next few days.
Denying the reports of Tata Group winning the bid for the debt-laden Air India, the Union government on Friday clarified that the media will be informed of any decision "as and when it is taken."
"Media reports indicating approval of financial bids by Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect. Media will be informed of the Government decision as and when it is taken", Tuhin Kanta Pandey, the secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management said in a Tweet.
Meanwhile quoting sources PTI reports that the bid by Tata sons is yet to be approved by a group of ministers headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.
Besides, conglomerate Tata Sons, which is a frontrunner to get hold of the carrier, Tata Sons backed SPV and industrialist Ajay Singh, in his personal capacity had sent in their financial bids.
According to the IANS report, the two bids are being scrutinised against a reserve price set for the airline. The report also says that the bidding process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price.
The report says that senior government officials are conducting separate meetings with the two bidders regarding other aspects of the sale such as the indemnity clause and carry over debt levels of the airline at present
According to the report, a final decision can be made within few days, as meeting of AISAM (Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism) is scheduled to meet after all its members are back in the country.
AISAM headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is an empowered GoM which has the authority to take the final call on the matter, without the need for a Cabinet approval.
After the announcement of the winning bid is made, the process of a complete handover is expected to take place within three-four months time. The Centre on September 15 had received multiple financial bids for divestment of Air India.
The government has of late taken several steps to fast-track the much-delayed privatisation of the national carrier.
Recently, the Centre decided to waive taxes on the transfer of assets from the national carrier to Air India Assets Holding Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
During the Budget speech for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the proposed privatisation processes would be completed by the end of the fiscal, including the much-delayed strategic disinvestment of Air India. This is the second attempt of the current Central government to divest its stake in the airline.
In the pre-pandemic era, the airline, on a standalone basis, operated over 50 domestic and more than 40 international destinations. Besides, it operated over 120 aircraft prior to the Covid pandemic. During that period, the airline had over 9,000 permanent and 4,000 contractual employees.
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (JRD) Tata founded the airline in 1932 which was called Tata Airlines then. In 1946, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India and, in 1948, the Air India International was launched with flights to Europe.
The international service was among the first public-private partnerships in India, with the government holding 49 per cent, the Tatas keeping 25 per cent and the public owning the rest. In 1953, Air India was nationalised.