Government invites global bid for Air India disinvestment

Bomb threat forces Air India's Delhi Kolkata flight to make emergency landing

The latest offer will include Rs 333 billion ($5.1 billion) of debt that the buyer will have to take over with the balance going to the government.

What Vajpayee had started 18 years ago might finally be realised this year.

Air India was founded in the 1930s and is known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot.

The government initiated the disinvestment process of Air India (AI) on Wednesday. In turn, the airline holds full stake in Air India Express, while it holds a 50 percent stake in the joint-venture AISATS.

El Al says the petition, filed by its controlling shareholder, has been filed against the Israeli government, the prime minister and the country's civil aviation authority, as well as Air India.

India's leading airline IndiGo stressed on Thursday that it was keen to.

Air India, thankfully, has certain strengths - an operating fleet of 138 aircraft, an extensive network connecting around 54 domestic and 94 worldwide destinations (including through code share agreements with foreign carriers), prime landing/parking slots and, above all, brand equity - that serious industry players might want to leverage.

Starting off the disinvestment exercise - a major initiative of the NDA government - Expression of Interest (EoI) has been sought from various entities, including foreign airlines.

On March 22, Air India's maiden flight to Israel landed in Tel Aviv, reducing the travel time substantially after Saudi Arabia for the first time allowed a commercial flight to use its airspace, indicating a thaw in relations between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state.

It mentions that the ownership - after the sale - must remain with Indian nationals.

So far piecemeal sale of the carrier has been the methodology, but the present government desires to do it in one go in the interest of private players, who would reap the benefits and public money will be used by the government for meeting the major debt burdens, the trade union said.

Among the permanent staff, as many as 4,217 are set to retire in the next five years, it added.

Air India Express Ltd has another 1,176 employees but here the permanent employees are only 96.

Companies including low-priced Indian carrier IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, Tata Group and Turkey's Celebi Aviation Holdings, have expressed an interest in buying some of Air India's operations.

The airlines bidding as part of a consortium will also be restricted to owning 51% in the partnership.

Such conditions appear to open the playing field for everyone from SpiceJet to Jet Airways. "The passengers were offloaded to carry out the security drills", Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjay Bhatia said.

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