Even as the government has initiated the stake sale of Air India for the second time, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the national carrier along with its budget airline Air India Express is a "great asset".
The minister also said that the entire dues and arrears of the ailing airline's employees would be paid before the proposed disinvestment of the airline is completed.
He said that the successful bidder would continue to use Air India brand.
The government on Monday announced the sale of 100 percent stake in the debt-laden Air India as it issued the preliminary bid document (PIM) for the strategic disinvestment and has set 17 March, as the deadline for submitting the expression of interest (EoI).
As part of the strategic disinvestment, Air India would also sell 100 percent stake in low-cost airline Air India Express and 50 percent shareholding in joint venture AISATS, as per bid document issued on Monday.
Management control of the airline would also be transferred to the successful bidder.
Puri further said the lessons have been learnt from 2018 with regard to Air India stake sale.
On the dues of the staff, he said, "The employees' dues with arrears will be paid by Air India assets holding company before the closing of the proposed transaction."
Last week, the minister had told Air India to set up an internal mechanism committee with members both from the management and the unions to sort out the employees' issues related to privatisation.
On 2 January, the civil aviation minister had met representatives of various employees unions of Air India and addressed their concerns regarding the privatisation of the national carrier.
The government has said that privatisation of debt-ridden airline had become a compulsion as fear grows about its shutdown.
"I had said earlier also, for us, it is not an option. Air India has to be privatised," Puri had told the representatives.
The minister had also said that debt over Air India has made it "unsustainable" and the national carrier needs to go in private hands to keep it running.
On Monday, Puri reiterated: "Due to its accumulated debt of around Rs 60,000 crore, the financial position could be described as very fragile and Air India can only be described as being under a debt trap.
In 2018, the government proposed to offload 76 percent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players. However, there were no bidders.
— With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2020 19:32:23 IST