Thursday, July 23, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic puts brakes on Air India stake sale

New Delhi: Restrictions on international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic have put the brakes on the strategic disinvestment of CPSEs like Air India, said DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey on Wednesday, but added that was a priority for the government to conclude it.

“Normally strategic disinvestment takes 8-9 months.... To a lot of extent, Covid has put a brake on this because international travel has virtually stopped. To some extent, we have to grant extension to some of the EoIs that we have issued. It is not that the investors are not engaged, but they want more time. Because one thing which is not open yet is international travel,” he said.

The government has already invited bids for strategic sale of national carrier Air India. However, the bid deadlines have been extended a couple of times on account of COVID-19 pandemic. For 100 per cent stake sale in Air India, the latest deadline for bid submission is now August 31. He added that the government has restructured the Expression of Interest (EoI) document for Air India to attract investors.

“We restructured the EoI of Air India with deep sense of responsibility that we will be successful this time. A lot of debt restructuring was done, rationality was brought in balance sheet, concerns of investors were met in EoI,” he said. A similar extension has also been made for the planned stake sale in BPCL.
Pandey pointed out that the government’s policy has marked a change-from selling only loss making public sector units to profit making ‘blue-eyed boys’, like BPCL. “Strategic disinvestment... completing what we have done (initiated the process) is a matter of priority. Also, building up a healthy pipeline... The idea is we are trying to give more space to the private sector in terms of brownfield investments. Once these enterprises are strategically privatised,” Pandey said at a FICCI event held in New Delhi. 
23/07/20 New Indian Express
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