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Air India stake sale: No takers for ‘Maharaja’: Air India auction fails

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NEW DELHI: Debt-laden Air India has failed to attract any bids during the process of auctioning of the beleaguered airline, the ministry of civil aviation said in a tweet. Bidders were required to submit the expression of interest (EoI) by 5 pm on Thursday.

Aviation secretary RN Choubey had said the deadline for submitting the EoI will not be extended. The original deadline was May 14, which was extended to the month-end.

Further decisions on AI sale will be taken by the alternative mechanism, Choubey added. Alternative mechanism is a group of ministers, which is headed by the finance minister, formed for divesting the Maharaja.

“Lack of bids is disappointing for the government,” a Mumbai-based research firm analyst told AFP. “The government can keep postponing the dates but the markets have spoken and there is zero interest. It is back to the drawing board.”

Air India, founded in 1932, was once the country’s monopoly airline, known affectionately as the “Maharaja of the skies”.

Two months back, the Narendra Modi administration offered to sell 76 per cent of Air India. Of AI’s total debt, bidders for the airline arm — AI, AI Express and AI-SATS (airport service company) — will have to take over debt of Rs 24,576 crore and current liabilities of Rs 8,816 crore or a total burden of Rs 33,392 crore.

Tata Group, Singapore Airlines (SIA), which together run Vistara, and InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, owner of the IndiGo carrier, were all linked to a takeover but have ruled themselves out.

IndiGo was the only one to formally express interest in AI’s international operations but backed out later when the terms said the bidder will need to take over the entire — including domestic — flights of AI and AI Express.

Updated: May 31, 2018 — 3:45 pm

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