Mahindra Group chief Anand Mahindra on Thursday said he does not have enough courage to buy debt-ridden Air India. Mahindra’s comments come a day after the Centre said it would privatise the ailing national carrier, which has debt of around Rs 52,000 crore. “I see myself as a generally courageous person,” the industrialist said on Twitter. “But I confess .. I don’t possess that much courage.”
Air India has been surviving on a Rs 30,000-crore bailout package issued by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2012. It has received Rs 24,000 crore so far.
On Wednesday night, the Union Cabinet gave the green signal for the privatisation of the national carrier and its five subsidiaries. With an “in-principle” approval, a group of ministers will now decide the final modalities of the sale. “How much will be disinvested, by which process, its assets and debt, as also its hotel companies, will be deliberated,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said.
The panel will decide whether to go for a 100% stake sale in one go or divest gradually. The options of 100%, 74% and 51% stake sale in Air India have been recommended by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management. On June 22, Niti Aayog Vice Chairperson Arvind Panagriya had said that the government was likely to act on the privatisation of national carrier Air India within six months. Panagriya had said the airline’s debt was “simply not sustainable”.
Private airline IndiGo has expressed interest in buying stake in Air India, reported NDTV. Earlier, media reports had suggested that the Tata Group could be a potential bidder. The group, which used to own the carrier before it was nationalised, has not confirmed this.
Air India warns former employees
Meanwhile, Air India has warned its former employees with “severe consequences” such as withdrawal of post-retirement benefits if they speak out against the airline on social media, PTI reported. “It is unacceptable that a person who is availing post-retirement facilities like passage, medical etc from Air India talks against the company. Retired personnel who make such negative comments with the intention of tarnishing the image of the company will themselves be responsible for cessation of their post-retirement facilities,” an internal order issued by Air India on June 21, with the approval of its Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani, said.
“It has been noticed in the recent past that a few retired personnel of Air India are tarnishing the image of the company by posting negative remarks of the company on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp and also electronic and print media,” the order said.