The government, besides two expressions of interest (EoI) for Air India, has received a surprise bid from Pawan Ruia, chairman of Ruia Group.
The businessman has submitted an EoI to buy a 100% stake in the embattled national carrier. Tata Group and an employees' consortium of Air India are other entities that have expressed interest in Air India.
Ruia, a chartered accountant-turned-businessman, was better known in Kolkata business circles as a "turnaround tycoon" after he bought controlling stakes in financially stressed companies such as Dunlop India, Falcon Tyres, and Jessop & Company.
However, he tapped off that pedestal following the above-mentioned firms entering the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction. The companies are currently facing liquidation.
Despite political concerns coming in the way of the reversal of these three sick firms, Air India would be a different case, a source told the Business Standard, adding that the Centre would resolutely back any company that wins the bid in order to ensure a turnaround for Air India.
The EoI was reportedly submitted under a consortium led by Kanti Commercials Private Ltd, a company associated with the Ruia Group. The other firms associated with the consortium are Fragment Nivesh and Enormous Nivesh, both related parties of Ruia-owned companies.
Meanwhile, Ruia has not yet commented on queries about his interest in Air India. It is widely believed that unless he brings in a financial partner or a big company to support his bid for the national carrier, he is unlikely to win.
As per the eligibility criteria set by transaction advisor EY, which is currently assessing the EoIs from potential parties, a bidder should have a net worth of Rs 3,500 crore.
The government is hoping to fetch approximately Rs 15,000 crore from the sale of Air India, its subsidiary Air India Express and AISATS - a 50:50 joint venture partnership between Air India and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS) Limited.