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Vistara planning to enter bidding race for Air India, says Chairman Bhaskar Bhat

BusinessToday.In     March 2, 2020

Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, is planning to bid for Air India, but a final decision on the matter has not been taken yet, said company's chairman Bhaskar Bhat on Monday.

Responding to a question whether Vistara was interested in Air India, Bhat told PTI: "Which company would not be interested in evaluating a sovereign airline of the country?"

"Whether we bid or not comes later," he further added. On being asked if Vistara or Tata Sons were evaluating Air India, Bhat said: "We (Vistara) are a joint venture."

Vistara, the Gurugram-based full service carrier, is a 51 per cent and 49 per cent joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, respectively. There is buzz in the market that the Tata Group, which founded Air India 87 years ago, may bid for the airline put up for sale by the government. According to analysts, the acquisition of Air India, India's flag carrier, would help the Tatas expand their aviation business. The group operates aviation business through two joint ventures - Vistara, a full-service airline in collaboration with Singapore Airlines, and second with budget carrier AirAsia.

Apart from Tatas, Gautam Adani-led Adani Group may join the race to buy state-owned Air India. Hinduja group, IndiGo and a New York-based fund, Interups, are already in line to buy the debt-ridden national carrier.

The government has invited bids for selling its 100 per cent stake in Air India and Air India Express Ltd, as well as 50 per cent shareholding in Air India SATS Airport Pvt. Ltd. This is government's second attempt to sell its national carrier after an unsuccessful attempt in 2018, when the airline failed to draw a single bid.

The government has asked interested bidders with net worth of Rs 3,500 crore or more to submit their bids for Air India till March 17. Of the total debt of Rs 60,074 crore as on March 31, 2019, the buyer would be required to absorb Rs 23,286.5 crore, while the rest would be transferred to the special purpose vehicle (SPV) Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL).

Meanwhile, the government has extended the last date to raise additional queries regarding Air India disinvestment till March 6.

By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs

Also Read: Govt to sell 100% stake in Air India; issues bid document

Also Read: Adani Group may enter the race to buy Air India

Also Read: Air India sale: Debt burden on buyer to be Rs 23,286 crore

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