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Government looks to sell Air India, ground handling arm

Government looks to sell Air India, ground handling arm
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The government plans strategic stake sale in Air India Air Transport Services, the ground handling arm of Air India, by March end, a senior finance...

New Delhi: The government plans strategic stake sale in Air India Air Transport Services, the ground handling arm of Air India, by March end, a senior finance ministry official said on Thursday.

“The administrative ministry is in talks with Air India on the issue of stake sale in certain non-core assets. Air India Air Transport Services seems the right candidate at the moment and the bids may be invited soon and the process may be concluded by March end,” the official said.

Air India has been selling non-core assets, including some prime properties, to reduce its debt. As of March 31, 2017, the national carrier had outstanding debt of Rs 48,500 crore on its book.

Air India Air Transport Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India, is primarily involved in ground handling and cargo handling services. The company had reported a profit of Rs 61.66 crore in 2016-17. The Centre is considering a strategic sale in the subsidiary after it failed to sell 76% stake in the airline.

The government had invited initial bids for stake sale in Air India in March, but failed to solicit even a single expression of interest, despite extending the deadline twice. This week, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the government will be ready with a plan to revive the debt-laden carrier in two-three weeks.

“We are working on an overall revival plan for Air India and it includes multiple elements including the financial package, and we are close to finalising the overall revival plan,” Sinha had said. Air India and other airlines are currently under pressure due to rising prices of aviation fuel.

Other subsidiaries of Air India include Air India Express, Air India Engineering Services, Airline Allied Services, Hotel Corp of India, and Air India SATS Airport Services.

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