Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, addressing the media on Monday, described the current situation of the national carrier as "very fragile". The government had earlier released the preliminary information memorandum (PIM) for seeking expression of interest for strategic disinvestment of Air India. Mr Puri added that Air India is under a debt trap due to accumulated debt of around Rs 60,000 crore.
After failing to sell majority stake in Air India in 2018, the government has worked on critical areas this time around to make the disinvestment bid more attractive to the prospective bidder, Mr Puri said.
The revised disinvestment guidelines include stake sale of 100 per cent in Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express, 50 per cent stake sale in ground operations holding company AISATS and freezing of debt, Mr Puri noted.
Some parameters in current PIM include transfer of management control and sale of 100 per cent shares of Air India, along Air India's 100 per cent stake in its subsidiary Air India Express and 50 per cent stake in joint venture AISATS. The debt in Air India has been frozen at Rs 23,286.5 crore, which is approximately equivalent to the written down value of the combined asset of Air India and Air India Express, Mr Puri said.
"Liabilities in Air India will be equal to certain current and non-current assets. Considering the combined figures as on March 2019, liabilities retained will be around Rs 8,771.5 crore. Remaining debt and liabilities of Air India and Air India Express will be allotted to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) Air India Assets Holdings Limited," Mr Puri added.
All land and building assets along with paintings and art work are not part of the transaction, Mr Puri said. However, certain land and buildings at Delhi and Mumbai Airports and corporate offices which are core assets for running the airline will be given to the new investor on right-to-use basis for a limited period, Mr Puri said.
"Any private investor can turn it around and make Air India a profitable venture by bringing operational and financial efficiencies. The government has limited financial resources whereas the private investor can bring the required capital and turn it around. We hope and wish Air India remains a vibrant airline and continues to fly forever," Mr Puri concluded.