The Indian government has invited preliminary bids to divest its entire stake in Air India, and the airline’s subsidiary Air India Express along with its joint venture Air India SATS Airport Services.

According to the bid document issued by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, March 17 is the last date for submission of bids and qualified bidders will be notified on March 31.

Those interested in bidding for Air India must have a net worth of ₹3,500 crore.

The document says, “The Government of India (GOI) has given ‘in-principle’ approval for the strategic disinvestment of AI (Air India) by way of the transfer of management control and sale of 100 per cent equity share capital of AI held by GOI which will include AI’s shareholding interest of 100 per cent in AIXL (Air India Express) and 50 per cent in AISATS (Air India SATS Airport Services).”

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said in the Indian Parliament in December 2019  that Air India’s accumulated losses in the past decade stood at about ₹69,575.64 crore. He also announced then that Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM) has approved 100 per cent sale of government stake in Air India for the strategic disinvestment of the national carrier.

The Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM) has been set up by the Civil Aviation to expedite the disinvestment process of Air India.

The minister has also recently said that Air India might close if not privatised.

The national carrier, with a 12.7 per cent share of the domestic market, carried 18.36 million domestic passengers in 2019, according to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. 

In 2018, the Narendra Modi-led government had expressions of interest (EoI) to divest 76 per cent stake in the airline but found no takers.

The government owns 100 per cent stake in Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express. AISATS is a joint venture partnership between Air India and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS) which provides ground and cargo handling services.