Denying reports of a possible joint bid for Air India, budget airline IndiGo has said that there are no ongoing discussions with the Gulf-based carrier Qatar Airways. The clarification by India's largest airline in terms of market share comes at a time when the government is chalking out on the final details for the sale of debt-ridden national carrier.
"While IndiGo normally doesn't respond to rumors, in this particular instance, we would like to state that there are no ongoing discussions of this nature," the airline said. Last year, the low-cost carrier IndiGo had sent formal expression of interest to buy Air India's international operations.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has also denied reports of any involvement in any talks regarding the acquisition of Air India. Though Air India is saddled with huge debt (currently at Rs 51,890 crore), acquiring the airline can help boost the acquirer in terms of foot print, bilteral flying rights, parking slots, etc.
As per reports, the government is planning to split the airline into four entities - core airline business (Air India and Air India Express), regional arm (Alliance Air), ground handling and engineering operations. Each entity will be sold separately with at least 51 per cent stake on offer. The disinvestment process is likely to be completed by the end of 2018.
Last year in June, the Union Cabinet had approved privatisation of the debt-laden national carrier, which is kept afloat on taxpayers' money. On January 10, in an attempt to fast-track Air India's divestment process, the Cabinet allowed foreign airlines to invest upto 49 per cent in Air India.
A group headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with Rothschild and Ernst & Young as consultants has been appointed to chalk out the strategy for Air India's stake sale. The airline has six subsidiaries, out of which three are making losses, with assets worth about $4.6 billion. The government has pumped $3.6 billion since 2012 to bail out the airline.
Last year, Turkey's Celebi Aviation Holding and Delhi-based Bird Group had shown interest in buying state-owned Air India's ground handling operations.
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