Plans to privatise India’s flag-carrier have run into turbulence

AFTER a plane crash, air-safety investigators are dispatched to the wreckage site to find out what went wrong and ensure it never happens again. Their financial counterparts have a similar job to do with the Indian government’s proposed sale of Air India. Mooted for nearly a year, the first round of preliminary bids ended on May 31st having attracted not a single offer.

Bureaucrats running the divestment process had expected many suitors. Domestic aviation is booming. Air India has a modern fleet, an enviable brand and valuable landing rights in many foreign airports. No fewer than 160 queries had come in from interested parties, said to include local and foreign airlines as well as Tata, a conglomerate. Might a bidding war ensue, some wondered?

Not quite. Bidders were seemingly never as keen as government leaks to the media suggested. For one, Air India came saddled with unwanted cargo in the form of 334bn rupees ($5bn) of debt. And a potential buyer would also be expected…Continue reading

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