Countdown to Air India selloff, Tata Sons' bid frontrunner
The race to acquire Air India has entered the final stage with the government likely to announce the winning bid on Friday.
The indications are that Tata Sons has outbid its competitor, a consortium led by SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh.
The Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism headed by home minister Amit Shah has been vetting the bids based on recommendations given by a panel of secretaries led by the cabinet secretary.
The ministerial panel members include finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, commerce minister Piyush Goyal and aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Sources said Tata Group chairman emeritus Ratan N Tata and Tata Sons chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran are expected to meet the Shah panel and provide the finer details of the deal such as debt restructuring, employee takeover, mode of payment and future plans.
The core group of secretaries has held several rounds of discussions, and is learnt to have suggested Tata Sons as the most suitable candidate. However, Ajay Singh had placed a “competitive bid” for the airline, sources said.
Valuation firm RBSA Advisors and EY — the consultants — had earlier this week given a presentation to the committee of secretaries. They had reportedly set the reserve price in the range of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore.
The financial bids were opened after technical parameters and security clearance was obtained. Officials indicated the Tatas were said to have outbid the SpiceJet chairman and the ministerial panel nod seemed like a formality.
The government plans to hand over the Air India to the winning bidder before the end of this calendar year.