Millennium Post

Air India: Govt likely to issue EoI, share purchase agreement within 3-4 days

New Delhi: The Centre is likely to issue the expression of interest (EoI) and the share purchase agreement (SPA) for debt-ridden Air India's privatisation within the next three to four days, a senior government official said on Friday.

The official said that "a group of ministers (GoM), headed by Union home minister (Amit Shah), had on January 7 approved the EoI and the SPA for the airline".

"We will issue these within three to four days," the government official said.

While Air India's net loss in 2018-19 was around Rs 8,556 crore, its current total debt is around Rs 80,000 crore.

Dismissing rumours that the national carrier will shut down operations, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said on December 31 that the national carrier, which is incurring a loss of Rs 20 crore to Rs 26 crore daily, will keep on operating till it is privatised.

Air India chief Ashwani Lohani on January 4 had said that "rumours" of the disinvestment-bound airline's shutdown are "all baseless", weeks after he told the civil aviation ministry that the carrier's financial situation was "grossly untenable" for sustaining operations.

In 2018, the government had proposed to off load 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players. However, the offer failed to attract any bidder when the deadline for initial bids closed on May 31, 2018. Therefore, the Centre re-started the disinvestment process in 2019. The Centre plans to divest its entire stake in Air India this time so as to make it attractive for private entities.

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