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Tata wins bid to take over troubled state-run Air India

NEW DELHI - Tata Sons has been selected as the winning bidder to take over state-run carrier Air India, the government said on Friday, marking the end of years of struggle to privatise the financially troubled airline.

Tata Sons, the holding company for the autos-to-steel Tata conglomerate, will pay 180 billion rupees ($2.4 billion) for a 100 per cent stake in Air India, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, said.

The bid amount includes Tata's taking on of about $2 billion of the national flag carrier's $8.2 billion total debt.

A successful privatisation of Air India, which was founded as Tata Airlines in 1932 before being nationalised in 1953, would be a major victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the loss-making carrier has cost taxpayers an average of nearly $3 million a day for the past decade.

The sale also bodes well for Modi's plans to sell stakes in a slew of state-run firms to bolster government coffers and make India a fully market-driven economy.

Tata currently operates Vistara, India's only other full-service carrier, in a venture with Singapore Airlines as well as budget airline AirAsia India, a venture with Malaysia's AirAsia Group.

The deal completes a full circle as Air India was founded in 1932 under the name Tata Airlines by family scion and aviation enthusiast Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata.

The following is a brief history of the loss-making airline:

* Oct. 8, 2021 - India government announces Tata Sons as the winning bidder for its 100 per cent stake in Air India, after the conglomerate bid 180 billion rupees ($2.40 billion).

* Sept. 15, 2021 - India's finance ministry says Air India has received financial bids from Tata Sons and Ajay Singh, promoter of budget airline SpiceJet.

* Oct. 29, 2020 - The government gets two bids after extending the deadline several times.

* Aug. 7, 2020 - At least 17 people are killed and more than 100 injured after a plane belonging to budget arm Air India Express overshoots the runway near a southern Indian city.

* Jan. 27, 2020 - India renews push to sell stake.

* Dec. 12, 2019 - The government decides to sell 100 per cent of its stake after failing to find takers for its offer of 76 per cent and full debt of the company. Provides flexible debt assumption terms.

* June 20, 2018 - India shelves a plan to sell a 76 per cent stake due to lack of interest from bidders.

* May 31, 2018 - India's offer to sell a stake in Air India fails to attract a single bidder by the deadline, with potential buyers citing onerous conditions.

* March 28, 2018 - India plans to sell a controlling stake, along with roughly $5.1 billion of the carrier's debt.

* April 2012 - India approves a $5.8 billion bailout for Air India, which was to be received by 2020.

* July 2009 - Appoints State Bank of India to prepare a roadmap for the airline's recovery after years of losses under state control and emergence of new players.

* 1953 - Air-India nationalised; splits into two - a domestic airline and an international carrier.

* 1946 - Tata Airlines converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Ltd. In the same year, the airline adopts its widely recognised 'Maharaja' mascot.

* 1932 - Air India founded by JRD Tata as Tata Airlines, India's first airline. It operated only domestic flights at that time.

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