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Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran isn’t ruling out bidding for Air India

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 04, 2019 Published on November 04, 2019

N Chandrasekaran   -  PAUL NORONHA

Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran isn’t ruling out bidding for Air India, India’s flag carrier, which was founded by the Tatas 87 years ago.

“I will ask the team to evaluate it,” Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran told TOI in an interview.

“Ideally it should be a Vistara decision, not a Tata Sons decision,” Chandrasekaran said before adding, “I’m not going to run a third airline (in addition to Vistara and AirAsia). Unless we merge. There are issues. I will never say yes or no. I don’t know.”

Earlier on October 11, sources told BusinessLine that Tata Sons, the salt-to-software conglomerate is finally readying to bid for Air India and is believed to have started initial discussions internally for placing an offer.

ALSO READ:- Air India divestment: Tata Sons back at the drawing board, may place bid soon

The government has been trying to sell debt-ridden Air India for long but could not attract bidders. It has now again decided to call bids for sale next month.

In India, Air India holds the highest number of slots, routes and real estate, which makes it a prize catch for any bidder. However, the possible deterrent is the airline’s debt, which is among the highest, at ₹58,000 crore, with an annual outgo of more than ₹4,000 crore to service it. The debt-laden airline has been given a ₹30,000-crore bailout package by the government.

Tata Sons already owns stake in two Indian carriers. It owns a 51 per cent stake in low-cost carrier AirAsia India, while the balance is held by AirAsia Bhd. AirAsia India commenced operations in June 2014 with Bengaluru as its primary hub. The Tatas also hold a 51 per cent stake in full-service carrier Vistara, with the remaining stake held by Singapore Airlines.

The losses of Tata Group’s aviation firms increased in the financial year 2019, with AirAsia India’s net loss widening four times and that of Tata SIA (operating as Vistara) nearly doubling from the year-ago period.

ALSO READ: Losses mount for Tata group aviation firms

Published on November 04, 2019
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