Tatas may consider buying controlling stake in Air India

In what may be called a possible return to history, Tata group which once owned Air India is contemplating acquiring the debt-ridden airline.

TATA Group may consider buying the giant beleaguered Air India from government in partnership with Singapore Airlines, ET Now reported on Wednesday citing unidentified sources. Both the companies already run a joint venture airline Vistara in India.

The development comes amid talks about privatisation of the national carrier. According to the report, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran has been in discussion with the government. The airliner's massive debt of Rs 58,000 crores has, however, served as a sore spot for the Tata group.

Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran has held informal talks with the government, expressing preliminary interest in buying a controlling stake in Air India with a 51 per cent equity holding, as per a report in Economic Times.

Air India, which has more than Rs 52,000 crore debt burden, is surviving on a Rs 30,000-crore bailout package extended by the previous UPA government in 2012.

Niti Aayog also pitched for the full privatisation of Air India. JRD Tata was the first licensed Indian pilot, while his successor Ratan Tata often flies his business jet himself. Air India also flies overseas, and commands 17% of the global traffic from and into India.

Tata Group, which is keen on an otherwise tough Indian aviation market, reportedly sees value in adding Air India to its existing business, which includes a low-priced carrier AirAsia India in partnership with Malaysia's Air Asia, and a premium airline Vistara in joint venture with Singapore Airlines.

The aviation ministry has also expressed concerns over privatisation proposals stating the plan for revival of Air India would be taken up by the cabinet only after various issues, including the concerns raised by the parent ministry, are resolved.

  • Zachary Reyes