Monday, November 21, 2016

Govt's equity flow choke might block Air India revival path

Air India's turnaround plan would be hit by a proposed curtailment in government equity infusion, the airline has informed the civil aviation ministry.

Air India received Rs 1,713 crore of equity in the Budget, against its requirement of Rs 3,900 crore. The airline had requested the remaining Rs 2,200 crore to be released in the supplementary Budget. But the finance ministry has turned down the airline's request.

Lower equity infusion could result in increased finance costs and impact the turnaround plan, the airline has told the government.

Air India is on a Rs 30,000-crore government bailout package and has till now received Rs 23,993 crore in equity, including Rs 1,713-crore investment this year. The infusion fund was to take care of the cash deficit and to be used for loan repayment. The airline was hoping to retire debt using the equity infusion in 2016.

Last week, Air India Chairperson Ashwani Lohani wrote to the civil aviation ministry highlighting the perils of reduced equity infusion. The airline has sought the ministry's intervention in the regard. Lohani confirmed to Business Standard he has written to the ministry. "Air India's huge debt burden is a legacy of the past. It would be impossible to manage unless we are given full equity," he said in response to a query.

Lohani has in his letter pointed out that the airline was on an expansion mode and leasing aircraft, making it essential to have sufficient liquidity to take care of commitments. Further, he said, the airline would be forced to raise temporary loans from banks to bridge the liquidity gap, which might endanger the survival of the company.
21/11/16 Aneesh Phadnis & Arindam Majumder/Business Standard

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