New Delhi to sell full stake in debt-ridden Air India

Founded in 1932 and formerly India’s monopoly airline, the company was once known affectionately as the ‘Maharaja of the skies.’ (AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

New Delhi to sell full stake in debt-ridden Air India

  • The airline, which owes more than $8 billion, has been struggling to pay salaries and buy fuel
  • Formerly India’s monopoly airline, carrier was once known affectionately as the ‘Maharaja of the skies’

MUMBAI: New Delhi intends to sell its entire stake in the debt-crippled national carrier Air India, the government announced Monday, after failing previously to secure any bids for a majority share.
The airline, which owes more than $8 billion, has been struggling to pay salaries and buy fuel, with officials recently warning that it would have to shut down unless a buyer was found.
On Monday the civil aviation ministry released a document inviting bids for a 100 percent stake, setting March 17 as the deadline for initial submissions.
Potential buyers would have to assume around $3.26 billion in debt, the document said.
The government was forced in 2018 to shelve plans to sell a 76 percent stake in Air India after failing to attract any bidders.
India’s Tata Group, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and IndiGo were all linked to a takeover but subsequently ruled themselves out.
Founded in 1932 and formerly India’s monopoly airline, the company was once known affectionately as the “Maharaja of the skies.”
But it has been hemorrhaging money for more than a decade and has lost market share to low-cost rivals in one of the world’s fastest-growing but most competitive airline markets.
In November aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said the airline would “have to close down if it is not privatized.”
State-run oil companies halted fuel supplies to Air India in August after it fell behind on payments, though the firms agreed to lift the suspension a month later after talks brokered by the government.
The country’s aviation sector has been stuck in a slump since the collapse of Jet Airways last year.


France heading for worst recession since WWII: minister

Updated 06 April 2020

France heading for worst recession since WWII: minister

  • France imposed a nationwide stay-at-home order from March 17 after shuttering all nonessential businesses
  • Statistics office Insee said last month that the lockdown has slashed overall economic activity by 35 percent

PARIS: France is likely to see its deepest recession since the end of World War II this year because of the coronavirus crisis, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Monday.
“The worst growth figure in France since 1945 was -2.2 percent in 2009, after the financial crisis of 2008. We will probably be very far beyond -2.2 percent” this year, Le Maire told a Senate panel.
“It’s an indication of the amplitude of the economic shock we’re facing,” he said.
France imposed a nationwide stay-at-home order from March 17 after shuttering all nonessential businesses. Officials have said the lockdown will last until at least April 15.
Statistics office Insee said last month that the lockdown has slashed overall economic activity by 35 percent, and estimated every month of shutdown would cut annual GPD by three percentage points.
Services, heavy industry and construction are all taking big hits, Insee said, as factories are shut and only a handful of business sectors, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, remain open.
A wave of French blue-chip companies have abandoned their profitability targets for the year, while employers’ associations have warned that hundreds of smaller firms and shops risk bankruptcy.
The government has pledged 45 billion euros ($49 billion) in loan guarantees and other relief to help companies get through the crisis.

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