Tata Sons, India’s oldest and richest corporation, has retaken control of Air India, the country’s indebted national carrier.
When Tata started the airline in 1932, it was a forerunner in commercial flying in India. In 1953, the government took control.
N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday ahead of a meeting with Air India executives. Tata’s 180 billion rupee ($2.4 billion) bid for the carrier beat out a smaller bid from India SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh in October.
“We are overjoyed that this process is now complete. We are delighted to have Air India back, and we aspire to build a world-class airline,” Chandrasekaran told reporters.
According to a government announcement, Tata will absorb 153 billion rupees ($2 billion) of the airline’s more than 615 billion rupees ($8.2 billion) debt burden.
According to the Press Trust of India news agency, it will acquire ownership of 121 Air India planes as well as 25 planes operated by its subsidiary Air India Express, which offers low-cost flights to more than 30 destinations in India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
The Modi government has vowed to sell more than a dozen loss-making government-run enterprises as part of its economic reform plan. The government’s initial sale attempt for Air India in 2018 failed to attract any bids.
The Tata group consists of approximately 100 enterprises, including the country’s largest automobile, the largest private steel manufacturer, and a leading outsourcing provider. Globally, the companies employ about 350,000 people. In June 2008, Tata purchased Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford for $2.3 billion.
Tata also operates a low-cost airline, Air Asia India, in partnership with Malaysian carrier Air Asia Berhad, as well as a full-service carrier, Vistara, in partnership with Singapore Airlines.
Air India offers flights to 33 countries across four continents and covers 101 destinations, including 57 domestic routes.