Though the Air India sale process is not going well, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal seems to have again tossed his hat in the ring by indicating that he's still not out of the race when it comes to the divestment of the loss-making national carrier.
According to a report in Bloomberg, the Jet Airways chairman, during an interview in Manchester, England, said: "We are looking at our own business. But I am not saying that we will not look at Air India, I've never said that. Ultimately we will always see what's best approach ahead of us, and for the country."
Citing contours of the sale process, Jet Airways on April 10 had said it was not interested in participating in the Air India sale process.
"We welcome the government move to privatise Air India. It is a bold step. However, considering the terms of offer in the information memorandum and based on our review, we are not participating in the process," Jet Airways Deputy CEO & CFO Amit Agarwal had said in an e-mailed statement. However, from Goyal's statement it seems evident the Jet Airways top boss is holding the cards on the expectation that the government would ease out more terms and conditions for the sale.
The government extended the deadline for submitting the expression of interest (EOI) for Air India on May 1 to May 31. Earlier, the deadline for submitting EOI was May 14. After all three national carriers, including IndiGo, Jet Airways, and Tata Sons, citing various reasons like terms of reference, liabilities, stake issues, etc, for not participating in the sale process, the government extended the deadline to receive initial bids till May 31. If things go as per the plan, which so far seems unlikely, Air India will announce successful bidder on June 15.
On May 1, the government had also clarified its stand on over 160 queries it received from interested bidders over the disinvestment of Air India and its subsidiaries, Air India Express and AISATS (Air India Sats Airport Services Private Limited). These queries were mainly about the impact of the government's decision to retain a 24 per cent stake in the airline, the make-up of the airline's debt and liabilities, its latest financial performance, slots, and employee rights.
However, the government didn't change the basic terms of the sale offer, according to which the centre wants the bidder (a single company or consortium) to pick up only 76 per cent of the stake in Air India, including 100 per cent of Air India Express, and 50 per cent of AISATS, the ground handling subsidiary of AI. The government has also said that the successful bidder will also need to take on about Rs 33,392 crore of debt and retain the airline staff for a year.