NEW DELHI: Air India’s life-threatening debt burden of about Rs 55,000 crore will soon be halved with the government set to transfer Rs 29,000-30,000 crore to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) along with the airline’s non-core assets, in the latest bailout of the perpetually loss-making airline.
AI will need to seek the approval of lenders to transfer the debt. If that proves difficult, the government could look at asking the SPV to raise the sum and pay off lenders, said a senior aviation ministry official.
Air India bailout plan not alternative to divestment: CMD
“AI’s total debt is Rs 55,000 crore that does not include debt-like-liabilities like payables to vendors. Of this, up to Rs 30,000 crore will be transferred to the SPV AI Asset Holding Co Ltd with a sovereign guarantee. The airline’s current annual debt servicing is about Rs 4,500 crore and transferring the debt will mean significant relief to AI. As the non-core assets are sold, the debt taken over by the SPV will be gradually recovered,” said aviation secretary RN Choubey.
Govt plans to complete sale of Air India subsidiary AIATSL by March
First off the block will be the ground handling arm, AI Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) which the government hopes to exit completely this fiscal by selling 100% stake in it. This unit along with AI Express are the two profitable subsidiaries of the Maharaja. AIATSL is also being transferred to the SPV.
Asked by when will the debt be transferred to the SPV, Choubey said, “AI need to talk to lenders and get their nod for transferring of the debt. If there is an issue with that, the government may look at another option of lightening the debt burden from AI.”
The aviation ministry had earlier received some unsolicited interest for AIATSL which was incorporated in June 2003 with the objective of carrying on the business of providing all types of services at airport. Last year, players like Menzies Aviation, Livewel Aviation, Turkey’s Celebi Aviation Holding and Bird Group had expressed interest in acquiring AIATSL.
The government clearly felt that among the non-airline arm subsidiaries of AI, the ground handling unit had the best chance of being sold off in the remaining few months before the next general election.