The Tata Group in partnership with Singapore Airlines may be looking at buying India’s national carrier Air India from the government, business news channel ET Now reported on Wednesday citing sources. If the deal comes through, it would be a homecoming of sorts for Air India, which was originally owned by the Tata Group before being nationalised in 1953.
Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran has held informal talks with the government, expressing preliminary interest in buying a controlling stake in Air India with 51 per cent equity, the report stated.
The government has been talking about its interest in privatising the beleaguered airline that has been in losses for a decade. Recently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the aviation ministry has to explore all possibilities “as to how the privatisation of Air India can be done”. Air India has a whopping debt of over Rs 52,000 crore.
Air India has already received bailout packages worth about Rs 24,000 crore out of a total Rs 30,000 crore approved
Back in 2013, the then chairman of Tata Group Ratan Tata had said the group would “be very happy to look” at Air India “as and when it (privatization) happens.”
The Tata Group is already present in the Indian civil aviation space with two of its joint ventures including low-cost carrier AirAsia India in partnership with Malaysia’s Air Asia, and full service airline Vistara in partnership with Singapore Airlines.
Air India’s original avatar was as Tata Airline which was launched in 1932 by Tata Group patriarch JRD Tata. Post independence, it was incorporated as Air India International in 1948 as a joint venture between the government and the private sector to start overseas services. Five years after this, the government would nationalise the aviation industry bringing the airline under its control.