Policy

Govt mulls easing foreign control rule to aid Air India sale

Bloomberg December 3 | Updated on December 03, 2019 Published on December 03, 2019

The government has admitted a slight slippage in the deadline for getting the sell-off process off the ground V. Sudershan

India is considering amending a rule to allow overseas control of local airlines, according to a person familiar with the matter, which may help its indebted national carrier lure a foreign suitor after multiple failed attempts for a sale.

At a meeting in early November, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade asked the aviation ministry if it would be feasible to change the so-called substantial ownership and effective control clause, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public.

The rule mandates that control of an airline always remains in Indian hands, one of several reasons global firms have been wary of bidding for Air India Ltd. Doing away with the substantial ownership clause will enable an overseas stakeholder weigh in on major decisions of local airlines. That may lure foreign investors to the Air India sale without forcing the government to go down the politically contentious route of lifting the cap on overseas equity investment.

Currently, foreign airlines are barred from buying more than 49 per cent in a local carrier, and foreign investors, other than airlines, need government approval to buy a stake bigger than 49 per cent.

An e-mail to the DPIIT was unanswered. A representative for the aviation ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Published on December 03, 2019
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