Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Air India divestment: Evaluating the offer, says Vistara chairman; no call yet on placing a bid

Full-service airline Vistara is evaluating Air India, as the government has put up 100 per cent of its stake in the national carrier up for sale. “Which company wouldn’t be interested in a sovereign airline,” Bhaskar Bhat, chairman of Tata SIA Airlines Ltd, which operates Vistara, told reporters.

He was speaking at the unveiling of Vistara’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which will be at the airline’s heart of long-haul international operations.

The central government, in January, had started the disinvestment process of the national carrier and has invited parties to place their expressions of interest by March 17, a deadline that is expected to be extended.
Compared with the previous attempt at disinvestment, when not even a single bid was received, the government is offering 100 per cent stake instead of 76 per cent and a clear principle for bundling of debt with the national airline that will provide a level of certainty to the prospective investor.

When asked if Tata Group was evaluating participation in the Air India disinvestment process or Vistara, Bhat said, “We are a joint-venture”. Vistara is a joint-venture airline owned by Tata Group and Singapore Airlines.

However, he added that a decision on whether Vistara will place a bid or not has not been finalised yet.

The government’s sales pitch for Air India, though, is consistent with the last attempt, which is the availability of attractive domestic and international slots at capacity-constrained airports that could provide significant advantage to any new player looking to enter or an existing player looking to expand into the Indian market; and premium wide-bodied aircraft that the airline owns.
03/03/20 Pranav Mukul/Indian Express

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