The government of India expects to receive the financial bids for Air India by September, minister of state for civil aviation V K Singh told Parliament. The minister, however, did not disclose the names of the qualified institutional bidders (QIBs). The government, Singh said, has received “multiple” expressions of interest for the privatisation of the cash-strapped national carrier.
The government also clarified that the lawsuits filed by Cairn Energy and Devas in an US court would not have any impact on Air India’s disinvestment. ‘‘Cairn Energy and Devas Multimedia have filed lawsuits in the US seeking declaratory and money judgment against Air India Limited as an alter ego of the Republic of India,’’ Singh said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
Air India is a separate corporate entity with its own management and board and so there is ‘‘no likely impact’’ of the lawsuits on its ongoing disinvestment process, the minister said. Cairn Energy and Devas Multimedi are seeking $1.725 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, from India as part of lawsuits won in international arbitrations.
The Centre had invited expressions of interests for Air India on January 27, 2020. The last date of submission - after multiple extensions because of the Covid-19 pandemic - of EoIs was December 14, 2020. ‘‘Multiple EoIs were received by the transaction adviser. Requests for proposal along with a draft share purchase agreement have been shared with the QIBs by the transaction adviser on March 30, 2021, for submission of the financial bids,’’ Singh stated. ‘‘The financial bids are likely to be received by September 15, 2021.’’
The Centre has not revealed the names of the QIBs as yet. After the consortium of Air India employees, backed by NRI businessman Laxmi Prasad and his New York-based Interups Fund, was disqualified, the Tata group and SpiceJet are the two buyers reportedly left in the race to buy the national carrier.
Of the airline’s total debt of over £6 billion as of March 2019, the buyer would be required to absorb £2.32 billion while the rest would be transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle. Singh said the ‘‘monetisation proceeds of the non-core assets of Air India are to be used to offset the debt of Air India transferred to AIAHL.’’