Air India sale: Tata group frontrunner in takeover bid; mixed reactions among employees

The Modi government had invited a financial bid for the sale of Air India last week for which Tata Sons and Spice Jet have submitted their bids

IANS Photo
IANS Photo


As the bidding process for the privatization of the national career Air India is moving closer, emerging signals reveal that Tata Sons Private Limited – the holding company of Tata Group – may finally bag the bid.

“Tata Group may bag the Maharaja’s crown in the end. They have been exploring the structure for such an acquisition,” said a source who wished to remain unnamed.

The Modi government had invited a financial bid for the sale of Air India last week for which Tata Sons and Spice Jet have submitted their bids.

Though the government claimed that the bidding process would be finalized soon, sources say it may take more time.

As per the bid documents, Air India has an aircraft fleet of 263 aircraft comprising Boeing and Airbus aircrafts. Air India Express, which mainly flies to Gulf countries, has a fleet of 25 Boeing aircrafts.

Asked why Tata may win the bid, the source cited the “legacy factor.”

67 years ago, the Tata group had founded Tata Airlines in 1932. After independence, it was nationalized in 1953 and was renamed as Air India.

“Apart from the legacy factor, Tata’s credibility and their track record may turn the game in their favour. Employees will be happy if the national career goes into Tata’s hands…There is a pro-Tata feeling among the employees who otherwise were up in the arms over the privatization bid proposed by the government…They feel their jobs would be secure in the hands of Tata group,” added the source.

There are some, on the other hand, who feel that getting dues on time is more important than the name of the bidder.

A mid-level manager of Air India told NH that the government should clear all dues before it privatizes the national career.

The manager, who lives in Mumbai, said, “Our salaries were deducted during the lockdown. Later, the management assured us of resolving all issues before AI is privatized. We are hoping for a good outcome.”

Another employee who is associated with the Air India Employees Union said, “Takeover will take time. What we want is clearance of all the dues in time. Though our struggle against the privatization of public sector companies is still on, we at this stage hope for amicable settlement with the management”.

The Modi government has been seeking to sell 100% of Centre’s stake in the ailing national airline for long, including Air India’s 100% shareholding in AI Express Ltd.

As per the Air India ‘expression of interest’ floated by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management in January 2020, Air India has a total debt of Rs 60,074 crore as of March 31.

An employee of Air India for the last four decades said the mounting debt proved to be the biggest hurdle until now. “Hope this time the issue will be resolved,” he said.

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