India conglomerate Tata Group bids for debt-hit national airline

Tata Group, which owned Air India decades ago before the airline was nationalised, also has investments in AirAsia India and Vistara.

The Indian government has sought to sell its entire stake in the ailing company [File: Menahem Kahana/EPA]

India’s tea-to-steel conglomerate Tata Group has confirmed it has submitted a bid to buy debt-stricken national carrier, Air India, which it owned decades ago before the airline was nationalised.

The Indian government has sought to sell its entire stake in the ailing company, setting a deadline for bids for Wednesday after failing previously to secure any interest for a majority share.

“We have put in a bid,” a Tata Group spokesperson told AFP news agency late on Wednesday, without giving any further details.

Tata already has investments in AirAsia India and Vistara airlines.

The founder of Indian budget carrier SpiceJet, Ajay Singh, also submitted a bid in a personal capacity, The Times of India newspaper reported.

SpiceJet did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

The secretary of the government’s investment and public asset management department, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, confirmed bids had been received.

“Process now moves to concluding stage,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Tata Group in 1932 pioneered commercial air travel in India with Tata Airlines.

Once known affectionately as the “Maharaja of the skies”, the airline was later taken over by the government and rebranded Air India.

But it has been haemorrhaging money for more than a decade, incurring billions of dollars in debt and losing market share to low-cost rivals in one of the world’s fastest growing, but highly competitive, airline markets.

Apart from Air India, the government also plans to raise billions of dollars through the privatisation of Bharat Petroleum and a share sale of a major insurer.

In August, New Delhi said it was seeking to lease state-owned assets to the private sector to raise six trillion rupees ($81bn) to repair public finances battered by the pandemic and fund new infrastructure.

Source: AFP


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