Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday indicated that the deadline for submission of preliminary bids for Air India could be extended even as he emphasised that the disinvestment process is going on "extremely well".
Making a second attempt to privatise loss-making Air India in as many years, the government on January 27 came out with a Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM). Puri said the disinvestment process for Air India is going on "extremely well"
The government has proposed selling 100 per cent stake in Air India along with budget airline Air India Express and the national carrier's 50 per cent stake in AISATS, an equal joint venture with Singapore Airlines.
"There is a lot of interest... A lot of entities have come and asked us queries. Today is the last date for (the) queries," he said. The Minister of State for Civil Aviation also said extra time would be given to people but did not elaborate.
The government extended the deadline till March 6 for bidders to submit additional queries regarding the proposed disinvestment. The earlier deadline was February 11. When asked whether the deadline for submission of initial bids would be extended, Puri said, "only to accommodate a few days that we lost".
Specific details could not be immediately ascertained. The last date for submitting preliminary bids is March 17. Last month, government officials said the deadline was likely to be extended.
On Thursday, international airlines' grouping IATA said Air India's disinvestment process might be "quite difficult at this moment" amid the coronavirus outbreak, which would hit the global market for Indian carriers as well as inbound tourist traffic into the country. Air India has been in the red for long.