Tata Group is considering buying Air India: N. Chandrasekaran

Published on Oct 10 2017 - - India - -

New Delhi: Tata Sons Ltd executive chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran has said the Mumbai-based group is considering buying state-owned flag carrier Air India Ltd.

The group, however, needs more details from the government on the process, Chandrasekaran told CNBC-TV18 in an interview, which was released Monday evening.

“We will definitely look at it,” Chandrasekaran said, adding, “We still don’t have all the details. Every business proposal will be very seriously looked at and we will look at that (Air India). Definitely. But currently we don’t have the data… there are so many different groups within Air India and then there is real estate, there is debt, there is liabilities and we got to look at all of that it but we will definitely look at it.”

Chandrasekaran indicated the group was keen on the airline it once started.

“We have a team which can definitely spend the time as soon as the details are out,” he said, adding, “We need to look at aviation as a whole. We are subscale. We got two airlines both are subscale. Any decision that we take—Air India or otherwise—we have to have a story because we can’t be operating with 15 aircraft or 20 aircraft. I feel scale is important, in every industry in every group we operate in scale is important. Without scale you get to a situation where you are all over the place and it is very, very difficult to pay management attention.”

Tatas have launched Vistara in alliance with Singapore Airlines and AirAsia India. Vistara has said it will place wide body aircraft soon to fly international.

Tata chief said Air India would be a “strategic decision” and therefore “data” and “long term story is required”.

He also indicated Tatas have looped in Singapore Airlines to potentially look at Air India jointly as they had in the past but failed then.

“Do you think I would not have?” he asked, in reply to a question on talks with Singapore Airlines, but declined to comment further.

This is the first formal statement by Tata Group on Air India since the government announced its decision to sell the airline earlier this year.

Mint reported on 21 June that the group has sought details of the Air India disinvestment in meetings with government officials.

In 2000, Tata group and Singapore Airlines had expressed their interest in acquiring up to 40% of Air India. In 2013, after a meeting with then aviation minister, Ratan Tata had said the Tata group would be interested in buying a stake in Air India if the government were to privatize the airline.

Air India was launched in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata as Tata Airlines. Its name was changed to the current one in 1946. The government decided to take it over in 1953.

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