State-owned Air India will be sold if the price is right as the government searches to offload the loss-making airline. R.N. Choubey, the Indian aviation secretary, pointed out that the decision to sell the carrier has generated a positive buzz and that New Delhi would not be resorting to a ‘distress sale’, The Times of India reported.
In a move to attract buyers, the government has extended the closing date for bids to June 15 from May 31. Interested consortiums will have until the end of May to also express interest in making a formal offer.
The Government hopes to announce the identity of the new owner by the end of August and is proposing to sell its 76% stake in the carrier along with low-fare subsidiary Air India Express.
There are also plans to sell “a 50% stake in AISATS, a gateway services joint venture with Singapore Airport Terminal Services, as a single entity,” the Economic Times reported.
Naresh Goyal, the chairman of private airline Jet Airways, has not ruled out a bid for Air India. His comments came after the government appeared to be struggling to attract a new owner for the troubled carrier despite offering sweeteners.
India’s largest airline by market share, IndiGo and low-cost carrier SpiceJet had earlier ruled out a bid for Air India. But Singapore Airlines and India’s Tata Group, which run a joint venture called Vistara, have announced they are open to a deal.
Air India operates a fleet of 142 aircraft, including 65 Airbus 320s, 15 Boeing 777s and 24 Boeing 787s.