January 27, 2020

BJP MP Swamy Threatens To Move Court To Stop AI Sale

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has used social media to threaten court proceedings against the central government if it continues with the divestment process of Air India by offloading its stake in debt-ridden national carrier.

“This deal is wholly anti-national and I will be forced to go to court. We cannot sell our family silver,” Swamy tweeted.

“My solution to Air India issue is: list 49% of its shares on the stock market and restrict to Indian and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) persons. 51% with government,” he tweeted recently.

He urged the Narendra Modi government to strengthen the airline instead of selling it.

A vocal opponent of Air India’s privatization, Swamy had earlier suggested listing 49% of Air India shares on stock exchanges with the government holding 51% in the carrier as an alternative to selling its entire stake to private companies.

It may be recalled that on July 22, 2019, he had tweeted, “What made AI lose? Ongoing tapes of Radia will tell. To hush that up and oblige Rotten Tata this privatization is being pushed by bureaucrats”.

Swamy, who is a Rajya Sabha member, had expressed reservations about privatization of Air India during the meeting of a recent parliamentary consultative committee.

Incidentally, Air India’s divestment would also mean that the government will sell its total stake in its low cost airline unit Air India Express, and 50% shareholding in joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited (AISATS), according to bid documents.

While Air India is reeling under a massive debt of Rs 80,000 crore, the successful bidder will absorb a little over one-third of the existing debt at Rs 23,286.5 crore.

The government has set the deadline for Expression of Interest in the airline as 17 March 2020. After privatization, the management control of the airline will be transferred to the successful bidder.

However, various other entities which are currently a part of Air India including Air India Engineering Services, Air India Air Transport Services, Airline Allied Services and Hotel Corporation of India, are currently in the process of being transferred to a separate company called Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL) since the government does not look to sell them as well, the bid document stated.

The government also looks to freeze Air India’s debt from the date of Expression of Interest.

Meanwhile, various Air India employee unions met to discuss divestment of the cash-strapped airline.

Recently, Air India also reported positive EBITDA for April to December 2019 at Rs 460 crore and the losses of the airline narrowed by 46%, signaling a recovery.

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