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India planning roadshows for Air India sale: sources

New Delhi

INDIA is considering inviting expressions of interest to sell Air India Ltd by the end of next month as the government aims to complete the transaction this year, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The government will conduct roadshows as well as be open to meet prospective buyers even before the expressions of interest are sought, the people said, declining to be identified as the discussions are private. The process is likely to allow the bidders to look at the accounts of the airline except for some portions that are confidential and also see the share purchase agreement, they said without providing details.

The potential bidders will have the option to make suggestions for changes in the sale terms during the process of expressing their interest in the deal, the people said. The government is looking to sell all its stake in the carrier, they said.

DS Malik, a spokesman of the ministry of finance, did not immediately answer two calls made to his mobile phone. Dhananjay Kumar, a spokesman of Air India, declined to comment.

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The plan is being prepared after the government's attempt to partially exit the carrier failed to attract any bidder last year. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget presentation for the current financial year said the government will revive plans to sell Air India and the divestment would be part of the government's efforts to raise 1.05 trillion rupees (S$20.8 billion) selling stakes in state-run companies.

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 state-run airline has total debts of US$8.4 billion and posted losses of more than 76 billion rupees last year, according to provisional estimates. BLOOMBERG

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