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India’s flag carrier Air India has been struggling financially for years, and the government decided to put it up for sale two months ago.
India’s civil aviation secretary RN Choubey told Indian TV News that the government still hasn’t received any bids for the struggling airline. To make matters worse, the formal bidding process closes Thursday.
Choubey said that the government will not extend the bidding process, which it’s already prolonged once before, extending it from May 14 to May 31. Even if the government does receive a bid by the deadline, it’s possible that it won’t sell the airline if it doesn’t receive an adequate offer.
“The government has the right to sell or not to sell Air India if the bid price is found to be inadequate,” Choubey has said according to The Economic Times. Still, Choubey has hope.
“Experience has shown that bids are received on the last day, in the last hour,” the secretary said. “This is typical bidding behavior. Why would anyone like to announce several days before that they are interested in bidding for any entity?”
Air India is a state-run airline and operates a 126-jet strong fleet of Boeing wide-bodies and single-aisle Airbus aircraft. The carrier has been operating at loss since 2007 and has roughly $7.8 billion in debt. The deal would saddle the new owner of Air India with $5.1 billion of that debt for a 76% stake in the company with the Indian government continuing to own the remaining 24%.
No potential buyers have stepped up, and two large Indian airlines, Jet Airways and IndiGo, have specifically said they aren’t interested in the Star Alliance carrier.
When the sale was first announced many thought a conglomerate like India’s Tata Group would purchase the airline — but buyers have been scared off because the say the government’s terms are too burdensome. Specifically, the condition that the new owner is prevented from merging the airline with its own business as long as the government still holds a stake has scared off potential investors.
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