Air India sell-off attracting interest

Written by: Alwyn Brice |
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Turkey’s Celebi Aviation Holding is the latest company to exhibit interest in the Air India privatisation programme.

First there was low cost carrier IndiGo, which expressed an interest in taking over the carrier's operation proper. Following that, the Bird Group announced that it saw the ground handling side of the entity as a viable acquisition. The latest news concerns Celebi, which has gone on record to say that it, too, wishes to be considered as a buyer for state-owned Air India’s ground handling operations. Celebi, like Bird, provides ground handling services in India, and has written to the ministry outlining its intentions.

Despite Air India's ongoing financial difficulties (the carrier has debts amounting to US$8.5bn and an inefficient cost structure), and despite the fact that the government has injected US$3.6bn into the entity since 2012, some observers view the sell-off opportunity as one worth pursuing. Celebi is unlikely to be the last bidder on the list, one feels.

Last month India’s Bird Group, which handles ground services at seven airports in the country and operates hotels in the United Kingdom, had expressed its interest to bid for Air India Air Transport Services Ltd.

Founded in the 1930s and known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot, Air India is saddled with a debt burden of $8.5 billion and a bloated cost structure. The government has injected $3.6 billion since 2012 to bail out the airline.

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