Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi. Photo: AFP

Salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group has made a move into the airport industry by picking up a stake in the GMR Group with two Singaporean partners. Tata already runs airlines, charters and aviation catering businesses.

Along with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and SSG Capital Management, Tata Group will invest 80 billion rupees (US$ 1.2 billion) to buy a 45% stake in GMR Airports Ltd, a unit of debt-troubled GMR Infrastructure.

The deal includes a fresh share sale of 10 billion rupees to new investors and a secondary sale share of 70 billion rupees. After the purchase, Tata will hold 20% in the airport unit, while GIC will get 15% and SSG 10%.

While GMR will retain management control, new investors will receive seats on the board.

GMR had been in talks with Singapore’s GIC and SSG Capital Management to sell the stake for some time, with Tata joining the fray only two months ago.

At the end of December 2018, GMR Infrastructure had a net debt of 200 billion rupees ($2.9 billion), and has been selling assets to pay off liabilities. GMR runs airports in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Cebu in the Philippines. It has also won bids for projects in Goa, Nagpur, Bhogapuram, and Crete (Greece).

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