Singapore Airlines says options open on Air India disinvestment

Reuters
Air India carries a debt of ₹52,000 crore on its books with losses amounting to ₹4,311 crore in 2015-16 REUTERS

The change in FDI rule is expected to attract more bidders for the airline, reports said. "Our priority is further expansion of Vistara".

Singapore Airlines owns 49% stake in Vistara, while the remaining shareholding is with Tatas.

Besides, the Singapore Airlines group has significant number of flights connecting various Indian cities.

The Indian government has allowed foreign airlines to have up to 49 per cent stake under the approval route in Air India subject to certain conditions.

On Wednesday, the government stated, "As per the extant policy, foreign airlines are allowed to invest under government approval route in the capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, up to the limit of 49 per cent of their paid-up capital".

Devesh Agarwal, a Bengaluru-based aviation analyst, said it appears that the government has not received an acceptable response to its initial efforts to sell Air India.

Currently, Air India is incurring a net loss of $569 million annually as per the latest official data presented by India's Civil Aviation Ministry in the Parliament.

The NDA government's move to allow FDI by foreign airlines in debt-ridden national carrier Air India upto 49 per cent is a reversal of the previous UPA-2 government's decision to keep Air India out of the FDI policy.

Last week, Leslie Thng, CEO, Vistara said that Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines have an "open mind" on the issue of the Air India disinvestment and that they will evaluate any potential business case therein.

Jitendra Bhargava, former executive director of Air India and author of the book "The Descent of Air India", said the government has to realise that it is not selling a hot product, but something which has a huge debt, public perception, etc.

Singapore Airlines will keep options open on disinvestment of Air India.

"We continue to focus on our organic growth and will partner with other airlines where it benefits our customers and makes commercial sense", Emirates said in a statement.

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