Air India sale grounded after privatization flops | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 20.06.2018
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Air India sale grounded after privatization flops

The sale of the state-owned airline was one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's big priorities, but now has had to be postponed indefinitely after no bidders came forward to buy the debt-laden company.

India's aviation minister, Suresh Prabhu, told local media late on Tuesday that the government was no longer looking to sell Air India, focusing instead on improving the airline's efficiency ahead of another attempt at a sale or a listing.

"The government is of the opinion that the plan for going ahead with the stake sale before the 2019 general elections may seem hasty, especially after no bids were received," he told financial news provider Cogencis.

Read more: India's iconic airline up for sale - but will anyone buy?

New Delhi had been looking to sell a 76-percent stake in the loss-making carrier in what would have been India's biggest ever privatization. But last month, bidding for Air India closed without a single prospective buyer coming forward.

Prabhu told reporters that the aviation sector globally was going through a "difficult time due to high oil prices," which is why it wasn't the right time to sell the stake. "We will review the proposal when the situation improves," he added.

Industry analysts said the airline's high debt levels and the prospect of the government continuing to own a large stake were the main deterrents for investors. Air India is burdened by about 500 billion rupees (€6.34 billion or $7.31 billion) in debt of which the government wanted the new owner to take on $5 billion.

Read more: Narendra Modi's 4 years in power: Good or bad for India?

New Delhi put Air India on the auction block last year, as it wants to scale back taxpayer support for an airline that has lost money for years. The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), an aviation consultancy, estimated that the airline could lose another $2 billion in the next two years.

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