New Delhi, 20 September, 2019: A Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, on Thursday met to work out modalities for the sale of Air India which has a debt burden of over Rs 58,000 crore.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri attended the meeting.

“I am not in a position to make any announcement. Please allow the process to move forward. However, it was a productive meeting where all issues concerned were discussed. The process will commence now,” Puri told reporters after the hour-long meeting.

Sources said the GoM discussed the modalities for the sale of Air India.

In 2018-19, Air India incurred losses of around Rs 7,600 crore. By the end of 2018-19, it had a debt burden of around Rs 58,300 crore.

In its first term, the Modi government invited bids from investors in 2018 to buy out the government’s 76 per cent stake in Air India, along with the management control. However, the process failed as investors did not put in bids.

Following that, a report was prepared by a private entity citing probable reasons that led to failure of the sale process.

The reasons cited include the government retaining 24 per cent stake and corresponding rights, high debt, volatile crude oil prices, fluctuations in exchange rate, changes in macro environment and restriction on bidding by individuals.

The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management has already prepared a fresh proposal for the Air India sale, incorporating issues like crude oil prices and exchange rate volatility, and other issues.

The government could this time around sell its entire 100 per cent stake in the Air India as it aims to conclude the sale process by December 2019, the sources said.

However, a final call on the quantum of stake to be offered to investors and the right time for floating the expression of interest would be decided by the newly constituted Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism, the sources said.

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