Air India sale expected in first half of next fiscal: DIPAM Sec Pandey

PTI, Feb 14, 2020, 7:00 PM IST

New Delhi: The government expects to complete the sale of national carrier Air India in the first half of the next fiscal, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey, said on Friday.

During an interaction with financial sector experts to discuss the Union Budget, Pandey also said disinvestment strategy has shifted from minority stake sale in public sector units to strategic sale, and a lot of privatization would happen in the next fiscal.

In November, he said that the government decided on big-ticket disinvestments while referring to the sale of stakes in BPCL, CONCOR, and Shipping Corporation of India.

“I think our movement has been very swift. Even the Expression of Interest (EoI) for Air India is in the public domain… We intend to complete these transactions in the first half of the financial year 2020-21,” he said.

Last month, the government issued a preliminary information memorandum for 100 percent stake sale in Air India.

The airline’s 100 percent shareholding in profit-making budget carrier Air India Express, as well as 50 percent shareholding in equal joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services (AISATS), would also be sold.

The deadline for submitting the EoI is March 17.

This is at least the third time that the government is attempting disinvestment of Air India, which has been in the red since the merger with Air India Express in 2007.

The first attempt for stake sale, when Air India and Indian Airlines were separate entities, was done in the 2001-2002 period when the NDA government was in power.

In 2018, the government proposed to offload 76 percent stake as well as transfer the management control but there were no bidders.

Air India has more than Rs 60,000 crore in debt. About the proposed stake sale in LIC, Pandey said it was a “big thing” and a lot of value would be unlocked.

According to him, disinvestment in the public sector insurance company would be done, keeping in mind the interest of all stakeholders.

Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, who was also present at the session chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, sought suggestions from the industry on the direct listing of Indian companies on foreign bourses.

He said that the government was working on a scheme towards it as many companies want to get listed both in India and abroad at the same time. The discussions are at an advanced stage.

Currently, Indian companies can list their shares through depository receipts abroad, while foreign companies need to go through the Indian Depository Receipt route for a listing of equities.

A high-level panel has already recommended to markets regulator Sebi to allow direct listing of Indian companies on overseas bourses and of foreign firms on Indian exchanges.

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