Monday, December 14, 2020

Received multiple EoIs for Air India: Government

New Delhi: The government has received “multiple expressions of interest (EoI)” for Air India before the Monday, 5 pm, deadline for interested parties to do so. While the biggest name and strongest contender remains AI founder Tata Group which is learnt to have submitted via its AirAsia India, others who did so include a group of AI employees and a New York-based firm run by an Indian origin person. SpiceJet did not confirm if promoter Ajay Singh also formally expressed interest in AI.

“Multiple EoIs have been received for strategic disinvestment of AI. The transaction will now move to the second stage,” the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) tweeted after the deadline.

Interested entities need to submit physical bids within 15 days. Interested parties who qualify to bid for AI as per eligibility norms will be intimated on January 5, 2021. The eligible ones will then compete by bidding on enterprise value (EV) basis. This means instead of being required to take on a pre-fixed level of Rs 23,000 crore debt of the airline, they will now quote an EV based on their estimate of the combined value of AI’s equity and debt. Winning bidders will be decided on who quotes the highest EV value and at least 15% of this value will need to be paid in cash while the rest can be taken on as debt.

Meanwhile, a section of Air India employees confirmed filing their expression of interest for the airline. A fund from Seychelles is their financial investor this move by just over 200 employees led by AI director (commercial) Meenakshi Mallik. “We have submitted the EoI,” Mallik, AI board member, said after filing the bid.

New York-based Interups Inc said it will submit its EoI on Monday. “We are proposing AI will continue as is (basis) with employees owning 51% and Interups NRI group to own 49%. The capital (will be) completely invested by NRIs. Willing and continuing employees will be offered 51% in the consortium that acquires the airline. No capital investment is required…. We hold 27635 qualified retirement asset accounts owned by US based NRIs,” Interups chairman Laxmi Prasad told TOI.

Interups website describes it as “a publicly listed company engaged in the business of identifying and investing into business opportunities or transactions either directly or on behalf of its stakeholders, affiliates, associate concerns and clients.”

The Tata Group is learnt to have submitted its EoI for AI over the weekend. Filed via its low cost group airline AirAsia India, the Tatas — who founded AI in 1932— are the frontrunner to win back the Maharaja.

The AI employees’ bid is not supported by a majority of pilots and cabin crew. AI is deeply divided on the lines of narrow body (erstwhile Indian Airlines) and wide body (erstwhile AI). Apart from massive financial challenges, whoever gets AI will have to make the employees it chooses to retain forger those fissures and work unitedly for the airline — something that the merger of IA and AI over a decade back could never achieve.

The 209 employees’ plan is to get each person to contribute upto Rs 1 lakh; own 51% of AI and the investor will hold the remaining 49% stake. AI has a collective debt-cum-liabilities of over Rs 90,000 crore.

14/12/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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