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All eyes on Air India EoI on Monday, likely suitors are Tatas, Hindujas

Industry sources said that some of the potential bidders could be Tata Group, Hindujas, IndiGo, SpiceJet and a few private equity firms.

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New Delhi, Jan 26: As the government is set to invite preliminary bids from potential investors for selling 100 per cent stake in Air India on Monday, all eyes are on the portion of airline debt to be taken off its books and qualification for suitors.

Prospective buyers would have to respond to the Expression of Interest (EoI) by March 17, 2020.

Industry sources said that some of the potential bidders could be Tata Group, Hindujas, IndiGo, SpiceJet and a few private equity firms.

Some of the foreign airlines could tie up with local players to place their joint bids.

While overall economic environment remains subdued, industry analysts said that there would be significant investor interest for Air India given its wide domestic and international network, traffic rights, slots at key foreign airports such as London and Dubai, technical manpower and large fleet.

“Besides, the government is ready to go the extra mile to sell off the airline. The government has hinted that it will agree to the demands of potential buyers as it is determined to completely exit the airline business,” said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Club One Air and former India head of Qatar Airways.

Air India is currently bleeding heavily with average daily loss pegged at Rs 20-25 crore. The Modi government is not keen to give any further financial support to the airline and has announced to shut it down if the second disinvestment bid fails.

As per official data, Air India had an operating revenue of Rs 25,509 crore in FY19. As its operating expense during the fiscal was Rs 30,194 crore, the airline had an operating loss of Rs 4,685 crore. On a net basis, its loss was a record high at Rs 8,556 crore (provisional) in the previous financial year.

Air India has a fleet of 125 aircraft and its domestic market share is 11.9 per cent as on December, 2019.

The Modi government had invited the EoI in 2018 to sell 76 per cent stake in the airline but it ended up being a no-show with not a single private firm expressing interest.

Learning from its previous experience, the government has decided to sell its entire 100 per cent stake in the airline. It is also learnt to have sweetened the deal by removing a large part of its Rs 60,000 crore debt and clearing other liabilities.

“We expect significant interest as the Government of India (GoI) has structured a very attractive offer,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO (South Asia) of Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

While many industry veterans are bullish on investor interest for Air India, some of the sector experts said that it may not be easy given the current business environment globally.

“The global growth forecast has been downgraded. India has seen its GDP growing at slowest pace in the last over six years. The fuel and foreign exchange situations are not great either,” said an expert wishing not to be named.

He, however, added that it is a do-or-die situation for the government as it can no longer infuse money into an airline which is losing Rs 25 crore a day.

An industry insider said that IndiGo is one of the strong contenders for Air India but given the fighting between its co-founders it will be difficult to get shareholders’ approval for placing the bid.

“Initial bids can be placed but before signing binding agreement shareholders’ approval would be required,” said the insider.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Fitch says India’s GDP to expand by 11% in FY22

It added that India’s medium-term growth to slow to around 6.5 per cent after the initial rebound.

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Fitch Ratings says India’s GDP to expand by 11% in 2021-22 after falling by 9.4% in current FY21 fiscal.

It added that India’s medium-term growth to slow to around 6.5 per cent after the initial rebound.

India’s coronavirus-induced recession has been among the most severe in the world, amid a stringent lockdown and limited direct fiscal support. The economy is now in a recovery phase that will be further supported by the rollout of vaccines in the next months and we expect GDP to expand by 11.0% in FY22 after falling by 9.4% in FY21.

However, we expect the medium-term recovery to be slow. Supply-side potential growth will be reduced by a slowdown in the rate of capital accumulation – investment has recently fallen sharply and is likely to see only a subdued recovery. This will weigh on labour productivity and our projection of supply-side potential GDP growth for the six-year period FY21 to FY26 has been lowered to 5.1% p.a. compared to our pre-pandemic projection of 7% p.a.

Our historical analysis of India’s growth performance highlights the key role played by a high investment rate in driving growth in labour productivity and GDP per capita over the last fifteen years.

But investment has fallen sharply over the last year and the need to repair corporate balance sheets and firm closures will weigh on the pace of recovery.

Constrained credit supply amid a fragile financial system is another headwind for investment. The banking sector entered the crisis with generally weak asset quality and limited capital buffers. Appetite for lending will be subdued, particularly as credit-guarantee and forbearance measures rolled out in the crisis start to be unwound.

The economy should be able to grow somewhat faster than estimated supply-side potential over the medium term following the unprecedented downturn in FY21. But our projection for the medium-term recovery path – at around 6.5% p.a. over FY23 to FY26 – would leave GDP well below its pre-pandemic trend.

The research report, “India Set for Slow Medium-Term Recovery” is available at the above link and at www.fitchratings.com.

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Maharashtra stops automatic adoption of Centre’s GST circulars

What this means is that the state would have flexibility in devising regulations to suit its interest rather than blindly following the central circulars.

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Uddhav Thackeray

New Delhi, Jan 14: In a clear case of defiance of the Centre’s authority on GST matters, the Maharashtra government has decided that the state would have the last say in the applicability of circulars defining regulations on issues of the indirect tax.

A circular issued by the Maharashtra Goods and Service Tax Department (MGSTD) on January 12 says that the state would examine all circulars issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), and upon examination, issue a separate circular regarding its applicability for the implementation of the MGST Act.

With this, the state also withdrew an earlier circular no. 39 T of 2019 that provided for deemed adoption of all circulars issued by the CBIC by the MGSTD. The state, however, said that all central circulars issued till withdrawal of this circular would enjoy status quo and would be adopted for implementation of the MGST Act.

What this means is that the state would have flexibility in devising regulations to suit its interest rather than blindly following the central circulars.

In the fourth year since the GST’s implementation, this is second major resistance mounted by states over implementation of GST laws. The states already strongly resisted the Centre’s move on GST compensation and pushed it to frame regulations that protected their interest.

“Biggest fears of model code for a federal democratic country like India are coming true even before the completion of its 4th anniversary of GST. Fight between the Centre and states over compensation for loss has already reached judiciary, and now the state government of Maharashtra has also issued clear instructions that they will have parallel set clarifications on same matters which will supersede the clarifications issued by the Central government,” said Rajat Mohan, senior partner, AMRG and Associates.

Maharashtra has justified its move suggesting that it is to maintain the integrity of communication and avoid confusion caused as to which circular instructions are to be followed. Sources, however, said it has been done as on several matters, states had a divergent view on how things needed to be implemented. In additional, unique nature operational issues in the state, created difficulties in adoption of central regulations.

Sources said that the Maharashtra government’s decision would further weaken the process of decisions being taken unanimously by the GST Council.

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Modi Govt to sell up to 10% stake in SAIL via OFS

Shares of SAIL on the BSE closed at Rs 74.70 per share, lower by 1.58 per cent from its previous close on Wednesday.

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Steel Authority of India

New Delhi, Jan 14: The Centre will sell up to 10 per cent stake in Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) through offer for sale (OFS).

The OFS will take place on Thursday and Friday.

“Offer for Sale (OFS) in SAIL opens on Thursday (14.1.2021) for non-retail investors. 15th January (Friday) is for retail investors. GoI would divest 5 per cent equity with a 5 per cent greenshoe option,” said Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) on Twitter.

The floor price for the OFS has been set at Rs 64 per share.

Shares of SAIL on the BSE closed at Rs 74.70 per share, lower by 1.58 per cent from its previous close on Wednesday.

The government is likely to miss its disinvestment target by a wide margin and the fiscal deficit is not likely to be anywhere near the target of 3.5 per cent of the GDP in 2020-21 (April 2020 to March 2021). While privatisation of firms such as Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Air India has been pushed to the next fiscal due to COVID-19-related delays, tax collections have been hit hard as restrictions imposed to curb coronavirus dented incomes all around.

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