Watching AI stake sale process closely: IFC

As the government awaits expression of interest for Air India stake sale, International Finance Corp (IFC) has said it is “watching the process closely and may get involved at a later stage.” IFC, part of the World Bank Group, made it clear that it is currently not involved in the Air India disinvestment process.

The government has came out with a detailed preliminary information memorandum, detailing plans to offload up to 76 per cent stake in debt-laden Air India and transfer the management control to private players. However, the ambitious stake sale of Air India as well as its two subsidiaries seem to be hitting air pockets with two potential bidders — IndiGo and Jet Airways — deciding to keep away citing the contours of the process.

While reports have mentioned that various entities, including quite a few global airlines, are interested in Air India disinvestment, there has been no official word about any particular entity. At present, IFC is not involved in the Air India disinvestment process, a spokesperson said, adding that normally it does not join the fray during the bidding phase.

“However, we are committed to bridging development gaps in India and financing transport and logistics is one of our top strategic priorities, as it is for the country. Therefore, we are watching the Air India process closely and may get involved at a later stage. Once the winning bidder is chosen, we will evaluate the situation to see if we have a role to play,” the IFC spokesperson told PTI in an e-mailed statement.
The response came to a query on whether IFC would be interested in the disinvestment process. A global development institution, IFC is focused on the private sector in emerging markets. When asked whether Lufthansa would be interested in participating in the disinvestment process, the German airline said, “your assumption is based on market speculation” and that it does not comment on speculation.

“With a presence of over half a century, India is a strategic market for Lufthansa Group and we are committed to increase our offerings by introducing our latest and most innovative products and services and by providing unrivalled connectivity,” it said.

Queries sent to British Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways on whether they are interested in Air India stake sale did not elicit any immediate response. Questions mailed to Air Arabia on whether it would be looking at Air India Express remained unanswered.

According to the preliminary information memorandum, issued on March 28, the government will retain 24 per cent stake in Air India, while the winning bidder will be required to stay invested in the airline for at least three years.

The proposed disinvestment will include profit-making Air India Express and joint venture AISATS. The latter is an equal joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore-based SATS Ltd.