Tata Sons, India's autos-to-steel conglomerate, is expected to have submitted an initial bid for the loss-making airline
A group of 219 Air India Ltd. employees also submitted a bid to purchase 51% of the airline
The government has received multiple bids for the disinvestment of its stake in national carrier Air India, secretary of Department of Investment and Public Asset Management said on Twitter.
"Multiple expressions of interest have been received for strategic disinvestment of Air India. The transaction will now move to the second stage," the secretary tweeted on Monday as the bidding process concluded.
Tata Sons, India's autos-to-steel conglomerate, is expected to have submitted an initial bid for the loss-making airline, sources aware of the matter told Reuters.
A Tata spokesperson declined to comment.
If Tata Sons ends up bidding for Air India, it will be the first time that the current government would have found a potential suitor for the national carrier after drawing a blank two years ago.
According to news reports, Tata Group is seeking to persuade its partner, Singapore Airlines, with whom it operates a joint venture--Vistara--to waive off a non compete clause in the agreement to bid for Air India and also partner the conglomerate in its bid.
Tata already operates two airlines in India - full-service carrier Vistara, which is in partnership with Singapore Airlines, and budget airline AirAsia India along with Malaysia's AirAsia Group.
The remaining 49% will be held by a financial partner, according to Meenakshi Malik, who is Air India’s commercial director. Each employee will have to contribute at least ₹100,000 ($1,360) toward the bid, she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in January renewed its push to sell its entire interest in the loss-making airline, which has been kept aloft by a bailout since 2012.
An effort to auction a majority stake almost two years ago drew no bids, forcing the government to ease terms. It has also extended the deadline multiple times this year due to Covid-19 and further eased the terms to attract bidders.
The airline industry around the world has been hammered by a slump in travel due to restrictions aimed at containing the novel coronavirus.
A successful bidder would win control of Air India's 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, as well as 900 slots at airports overseas.
It would also get 100% of the low-cost arm Air India Express and 50% of AISATS, which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports, the bid document showed.