India will revive plans to sell Air India Ltd., after an attempt to partially exit the loss-making carrier failed to find a single buyer last year.
The high-profile divestment would be part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to raise 1.05 trillion rupees ($15.3 billion) selling stakes in state-run companies, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her maiden budget speech on Friday. The administration will also look to sell other state-run companies or merge some of them, she said.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won a second term this year after pledging cash handouts to farmers and a $1.44 trillion plan to build roads and railways, besides measures to boost manufacturing and exports. While the promises resonated with voters, funding remains a challenge, forcing the government to sell assets.
“Strategic disinvestment would continue to remain a priority,” said Sitharaman, the first woman to hold the position. “The government would not only re-initiate the process of strategic disinvestment of Air India, but would offer more Central Public Sector Enterprises for strategic participation by the private sector.”
Air India, which is surviving on a 300-billion-rupee taxpayer-funded bailout, has failed to maintain its market dominance as a slew of carriers including InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. and SpiceJet Ltd. started to offer ultra-cheap, on-time flights more than a decade ago. The airline has total debts of $8.4 billion and posted losses of more than 76 billion rupees last year, according to provisional estimates.
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