Debt-laden Air India freezes promotions, new appointments amid stake sale preparations

  • The government is expected to soon start the disinvestment process for Air India, which has a debt burden of more than Rs 50,000 crore

  • For the disinvestment process, the official said the airline's books of accounts till 15 July, have been closed and those financials would be used while seeking bids

  • Promotions and fresh appointments have also been frozen ahead of the stake sale for Air India, the official added

New Delhi: Air India has stopped giving promotions for its employees and recruiting new personnel as the government prepares for the disinvestment of the debt-laden airline, an official said on Sunday.

The government is expected to soon start the disinvestment process for Air India, which has a debt burden of more than Rs 50,000 crore.

For the disinvestment process, the official said the airline's books of accounts till 15 July, have been closed and those financials would be used while seeking bids.

Promotions and fresh appointments have also been frozen ahead of the stake sale for Air India, the official added.

 Debt-laden Air India freezes promotions, new appointments amid stake sale preparations

Representational image. Reuters

The airline has around 10,000 permanent employees.

There was no immediate comment from Air India. Query sent to Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola remained unanswered.

The government is looking to complete the Air India stake sale in the next four to five months.

Air India is currently making a revenue of Rs 15 crore every day.

Efforts to sell 76 percent stake in the national carrier failed to take off in 2018. Then transaction adviser EY in its report had cited the government retaining 24 percent stake and corresponding rights and high debt as reasons for the failure of the disinvestment process.

On 3 July, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told the Rajya Sabha that the government is committed to the disinvestment of Air India and the plan is to make it more operationally viable before stake sale.

"It (Air India) will be sold when the buyer ultimately gives the cheque and there are certain prerequisites before any sale, those also have to be met. I do expect that to be finished in 4-5 months but nevertheless, to provide for that exigency, we have not accounted for Air India sale proceeds (in budgeted disinvestment proceeds).

"We will try to finish it off by Diwali, if not before," Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Secretary Atanu Chakraborty said on 7 July.

In her Budget speech on 5 July, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that in view of current macro-economic parameters, the government would not only reinitiate the process of strategic disinvestment of Air India, but would offer more central public sector enterprises for strategic participation by the private sector.

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2019 11:57:04 IST