Two Air India planes parked at Mumbai airport. Photo: Reuters
Two Air India planes parked at Mumbai airport. Photo: Reuters

The Indian government has decided to open the books of Air India to all prospective bidders in its attempt to sell off the national carrier.

Possible buyers will have access to information on assets, liabilities and contracts signed to date – likened to a “virtual data center” on the airline and its dealings, the Economic Times has said.

All prospective bidders would have to sign a non-disclosure document before getting access to the data. But companies that access the data would not be compelled to bid for the airline, it said.

The Indian government has decided to sell its stake and let a private entity take over the airline. The Cabinet has approved the sell-off in principle and a committee headed by the finance minister formed to decide on the best options for the government.

Currently IndiGo is the only carrier that has officially shown interest in buying Air India. The Tata group, which has stakes in Vistara and AirAsia India, has also been mentioned as a possible suitor.

Companies like Bird Group and Celebi — involved in ground handling — have shown interest in that part of Air India’s business.

The state-owned airline has an operating fleet of 142 aircraft – 65 Airbus 320s, 15 Boeing 777s, 24 Boeing 787s, 23 Boeing 737-800s, 11 ATRs and four Boeing 747s.

Apart from the main company, five of Air India’s subsidiaries and a joint venture firm have been included in the sale. They are its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express; its ground-handling branch Air India Air Transport Service; maintenance, repair and overhaul subsidiary Air India Engineering Services; regional connectivity operator Airline Allied Service; and Hotel Corporation of India.

Air India has an equal joint venture with Singapore Air Transport Services for ground-handling activities at New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangalore.

At least 14 companies, including investment brokerages such as KPMG, Ernst & Young and BNP Paribas, have expressed interest in helping the government with the sell-off and acting as legal advisors for the Air India stake sale.