Tata Sons executive chairman N Chandrasekaran on Tuesday said the salt-to-software conglomerate is considering buying state-run Air India Ltd. The Tata Group, however, needs more details from the authorities on the process, Chandrasekaran said in an interview to CNBC-TV18. Chandrasekaran said: "Every business proposal will be very seriously looked at and we will look at that. But currently we don't have the data. There are so many different groups within Air India and then there is real estate, there is debt, there is liabilities and we got to look at all of that it but we will definitely look at it."
The Executive Chairman further said that the group has a team which can definitely spend the time as soon as the details are out. He also explained the importance of business scale and said: "We need to look at aviation as a whole. We are subscale. We got two airlines both are subscale. Any decision that we take-Air India or otherwise-we have to have a story because we can't be operating with 15 aircraft or 20 aircraft. I feel scale is important, in every industry in every group we operate in scale is important. Without scale you get to a situation where you are all over the place and it is very, very difficult to pay management attention."
Earlier in June, the ET Now reported that Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran had expressed preliminary interest in buying a controlling stake in Air India with a 51 per cent equity holding. "The government is happy with the Tata Group's interest in the heavily debt-laden carrier," the report said. In July, Tata Group had sought for the details and asked the government about the process and what will happen to debt and the subsidiaries.
According to reports, senior Tata group executives had raised these questions in informal discussions at various levels of the government after Prime Minister Modi's cabinet approved the disinvestment of Air India on June 28. The national carrier was founded by JRD Tata as Tata Airlines in 1932 before being renamed as Air India. The government nationalised Air India in 1953.
Talks about privatising Air India have been going on for months. Air India privatisation talk started with an interview of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley where he said that if private airlines could handle 86 per cent passengers then they could also handle 100 per cent. Days after Jaitley's comments, NITI Aayog also batted for disinvestment in Air India. It is the third serious attempt by the Indian government to sell off Air India. In 1999, when Jaitley was the Disinvestment Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, he came up with a similar proposal, but it did not materialise.