Ex­perts take a dim view of RSS chief ’s com­ment on AI sale

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - FC BUREAU

AT a time when the Modi gov­ern­ment is woo­ing global in­vestors to buy ma­jor­ity stake in state-run Air In­dia, Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh chief Mo­han Bhag­wat (in pic) has said the air­line should be sold only to an In­dian com­pany. “If it’s not be­ing run well, give it to those who will run it well. That must be an In­dian, be­cause con­trol of our skies by those from an­other coun­try should not be ac­cept­able,” Bhag­wat said.

In­dus­try ex­perts said should the gov­ern­ment fol­low Bhag­wat, Air In­dia would never be sold as none of the In­dian com­pa­nies have enough fi­nan­cial mus­cle of their own to ac­quire the air­line. “Mo­han Bhag­wat can say what he likes. But I think the prime min­is­ter and the gov­ern­ment have al­ready made up their mind to sell Air In­dia. There is no way an In­dian com­pany on its own can and will buy Air In­dia. They have to tie up with a pro­fes­sional in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion com­pany,” said ClubOne Air CEO and for­mer In­dia head of Qatar Air­ways, Ra­jan Mehra.

Mark Mar­tin, founder and CEO of avi­a­tion ad­vi­sory firm Mar­tin Con­sul­tancy, noted, “It is strange to see the RSS com­ment­ing on dis­in­vest­ment of Air In­dia. They are nei­ther an in­vest­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tor nor in an way con­tribut­ing to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of In­dia.” As part of its plan to hand over the reins of Air In­dia to a pri­vate party by the end of the year, the gov­ern­ment on March 28 came out with the pre­lim­i­nary in­for­ma­tion mem­o­ran­dum (PIM) on Air In­dia’s strate­gic dis­in­vest­ment. It has of­fered to sell 76 per cent eq­uity stake of the na­tional car­rier as well as trans­fer the man­age­ment con­trol to a pri­vate firm. The pro­posed trans­ac­tion would in­volve AI, its low-cost arm Air In­dia Ex­press and Air In­dia SATS Air­port Ser­vices, which is an equal JV be­tween the na­tional air­line and Sin­ga­pore-based SATS.

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