New Delhi: The appointments committee of the cabinet led by Prime Minister Modi has appointed Pradeep Singh Kharola, an IAS officer from the Karnataka cadre, as the new chairman of Air India.

Kharola will replace Rajiv Bansal to become the third chairman of the airline this year. Bansal was given an extension to continue for another three months just last week. Bansal had taken over three months ago from Ashwani Lohani, who was shifted to Railways. It was not clear when Kharola, currently managing director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corp. Ltd, will take over. “I have just received the email," Kharola said on Tuesday.

An Air India official who did not wish to be named said there was no information on when Kharola will take charge as he is based in Bengaluru.

Kharola, 56, has a PhD in public transport systems from IIT, Delhi, and was principal secretary to the chief minister of Karnataka in 2013. It is likely that Kharola will execute the Air India sale which was announced earlier this year.

“While continuity would have been nice for the airline, he is also a good choice and generally known to be a doer in his Karnataka cadre," said a bureaucrat who knows both Kharola and Bansal but asked not to be named.

Bansal had started work on the airline’s sale. Earlier this month, he constituted five project teams headed by senior officials to deal with various aspects of the disinvestment. This included a team for finance, human resources, P&F (properties and facilities) department, secretarial and procedural matters and a team for bilateral slots, commercial arrangements. 

 SBI Capital Markets Ltd has also been appointed to hand-hold Air India during the divestment process.

Air India had total debt of about Rs48,877 crore at the end of March 2017, of which about Rs17,360 crore were aircraft loans and Rs31,517 crore working capital loans. Tata group, InterGlobe Aviation Ltd (which runs IndiGo), Bird Group and Turkey’s Celebi, are among those who have shown interest in buying some parts of Air India.

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