World Media

New Delhi opens door for foreign investment in Air India

New Delhi opens door for foreign investment in Air India

Air India has got a new lease of life with the government allowing foreign direct investment up to 49 percent in the bleeding national carrier.

The move could increase Air India's attractiveness to foreign airlines, as New Delhi undergoes a process to divest the Star Alliance carrier.

Foreign airlines were allowed to invest under government approval route in the capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, up to the limit of 49 per cent of their paid-up capital in 2012.

Devesh Agarwal, a Bengaluru-based aviation analyst, said it appears that the government has not received an acceptable response to its initial efforts to sell Air India.

Last week, Vistara CEO Leslie Thng said that Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines have an "open mind" on the issue of disinvestment of Air India and will evaluate if there was a business case for them.

However, the government has made it clear that the critical "substantial ownership and effective control (SOEC) of Air India" remains in Indian hands.

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That was part of a series of moves to relax restrictions on foreign investment.

The development comes days after a parliamentary panel said that it is not an appropriate time to go for Air India's privatisation, which should be given at least five years to revive and its debt is written off.

India has the world's fastest growing passenger airline industry, expanding at an annual rate of around 20 %. It has a total debt of over $8 billion, of which about $2.8 billion are aircraft loans and $5.2 billion are working capital loans.

"Our priority is the further expansion of Vistara".

"Air India has been facing losses for the past many years on account of a multitude of factors like high fuel prices, high-interest burden, increasing competition especially from low-priced carriers, high debt-equity ratio, and high airport charges", Jayant Sinha, India's Minister of State for Civil Aviation said last week.


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