Tata Sons has won the bid to acquire national carrier Air India. The salt-to-software conglomerate placed a winning bid of Rs 18,000 crore re-acquire the airline more than half a century after it ceded control to the government. Apart from 100 per cent stake in Air India and its low-cost arm, Air India Express, the winning bid also includes a 50 per cent stake in ground-handling company Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AISATS).
Earlier this month both Tata Sons and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh (in his private capacity) had placed bids. Reports last month that Tata had won the bid were played down by Union Minister Piyush Goyal, who said then that nothing had been finalised.
In December 2020, the government invited expressions of interest for the divestment of Air India.
Four bidders entered the race, with the Tatas and Ajay Singh the only ones to make it to the final stages.
Air India has accumulated losses of over Rs 70,000 crore and the government loses nearly Rs 20 crore every day, according to reports.
Tata Sons is expected to pick up Rs 23,286 crore of the airline’s debt.
This was the second attempt by the Narendra Modi government to sell Air India.
The centre made an attempt in March 2018 but its expression of interest – to sell a 76 percent stake – had no takers over concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt.
Despite its precarious finances, Air India still controls more than 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, and 900 slots overseas.
Air India began life as Tata Air Services in 1932 when it was founded by JRD Tata. The company was nationalised by the government in 1953. JRD Tata continued to be its chairman till 1977.
Air India became the first Asian airline to induct jet aircraft and started flying to New York in 1960.
At present, the Tata Group operates Vistara in partnership with Singapore Airlines and AirAsia India in partnership with Malaysia’s AirAsia.