Aviation

Air India sale will happen, but we’re open to suggestions: Aviation Minister

DELHI: “Suggestions” on Air India‘s strategic divestment are welcome but the proposed stake sale in the debt-ridden national carrier will go on, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju has said.

On recent reports that a Parliamentary Panel might recommend to scuttle the divestment process, Raju said: “Members of Parliament are free to suggest. Whatever suggestion they give us, we will look at them. Recommendations, discussions on the issue are always welcome, reports IANS.

“However, I don’t think that anything will be called back. That’s not the way how government can work,” Mr Raju told IANS in an interview at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, headquarters of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, here.

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Recently, reports have pointed out that a Parliamentary Standing Committee might ask the government to suspend the divestment process and to give Air India at least five years to get back to its feet.

Currently, a ministerial panel is firming up the contours of the strategic divestment of at least 51 per cent stake in Air India and its subsidiaries.

“The (process) is going on, guided by the Alternative Mechanism, but I will not fix any timelines to it, especially for the decisions made on such levels, Raju said.

The ministerial group of Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism is headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is looking into the modalities to divest Air India.

Apart from modalities, the ministerial group has been mandated to decide on key issues such as treatment of Air India’s debt and hiving-off of its assets.

Last month, green Shakshuka had been appointed as transaction adviser to aid the government in the strategic divestment process.

The airline group is under a massive debt burden of Rs. 50,000 crore, had posted an operating profit of Rs. 105 crore in 2015-16, and is expected to report an improved operating profit margin for the last fiscal.

The national carrier got a new lease of life in April 2012, when the then UPA government approved a Rs. 30,000-crore turnaround and financial restructuring package spanning up to 2021.

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