Business ‘Devas action won’t delay Air India handover’, target remains January-end

Business ‘Devas action won’t delay Air India handover’, target remains January-end



NEW DELHI: The government does not expect Air India’s handover to the Tatas getting delayed due to continuing legal action by shareholders of Devas Multimedia to seize Indian assets abroad. Officials in the know say the transition is going to happen “very soon”, with the earliest target being by the month-end.

The board of AirAsia India (AAIPL), in which Tatas hold 83.7% stake, will meet on Monday. While the agenda could not be ascertained, the first merger will be of AAIPL and AI Express as a low cost carrier. Air India and Vistara (51% owned by Tatas and 49% by Singapore Airline, or SIA) will continue to operate as separate full service carrier (FSC) till SIA agrees to have a merged FSC.

“Things (have been) sorted (out). Closing very soon,” top government sources told TOI on Sunday when asked if the decision of Devas Multimedia shareholders despite the Supreme Court recently winding up the company will delay AI’s handover.

“We have already entered liens or obtained seizure and garnishment orders on tens of millions of dollars in Indian state assets. We will continue to identify and seize state assets wherever we find them until India returns in good faith to the negotiating table,” a spokesperson for Devas Multimedia said Sunday.

Meanwhile, AI officials say Tata Group has begun a “train the trainer” program under which some people have been selected from various departments to be trained about the Tata ethos, work culture. The trained will, in turn, train their colleagues. “One key thing being told is that unlike a PSU where seniority decides who will be the boss, AI employees should be prepared to work under someone who could be younger than them,” said an official.

The Tatas have so far not commented on takeover preparations or plans for the airline founded by JRD Tata 69 years ago.

“The transition period is likely to see someone from Tata coming in as the accountable manager and senior AI officials continuing to work in their current roles barring a few changes in no-operational side. The Tata-appointed brass will need some time to takeover till they are, first, finalised and announced and, then secondly, given security clearances by government agencies,” said a person in the know.

Tata Sons senior VP Nipun Aggarwal — an engineer from Delhi College from Engineering and post graduate in finance & management from IIM Calcutta — is expected to play a key role in AI.


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