Govt to sell Air India building to JNPT, gets approval from PM Modi

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The name of Air India building would not be changed after sale to JNPT
The name of Air India building would not be changed after sale to JNPT

New Delhi : The Modi government is planning to sale the Air India building at Nariman Point, Mumbai, to the country’s biggest container port Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in an effort to raise funds for the cash-strapped national carrier, said credible source close to the development.

Sources confirmed that the discussion for the sale has began and the proposal to sale Air India building has received in-principle approval from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following which an inter-ministerial panel has been constituted to work out the modalities.

Air India’ 23-storey building at Nariman Point, Mumbai was once the airline’s headquarters and a prime property. It is likely that the high valued property will fetch high valuations.

The proposal to sell the building to state-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) comes after the government’s efforts of Air India strategic disinvestment failed to take off. The prime minister has given his in-principle approval for the proposed sale of Air India’s iconic building to JNPT, people familiar with the matter said.

“A committee comprising Secretaries from the Civil Aviation and Shipping ministries has been set up to decide on the valuation of the building,” one of the people said.

Air India and JNPT comes under the Civil Aviation and Shipping ministries, respectively.

It is believed that the name of the building would not be changed after sale to JNPT. It is commonly known as “Air India building”, the sources said. A query sent to Air India spokesperson about the proposal did not draw an immediate response.

According to some Air India officials, who are aware about the sale, a section within the airline is strongly opposing any such move. They also said that the building is a “cash cow” for the airline.

On Monday, finance minister Piyush Goyal had said the government is giving a new drive to strengthen Air India’s management practices and operational efficiencies while the disinvestment plan would depend on various situations. “In the next 18 months, you will see the visible change,” he had said.

The government has been pursuing benefits monetisation plan of Air India for long and few properties have been sold so far.

Earlier, in March this year, the civil aviation ministry had informed the Lok Sabha that the airline mopped up ₹ 543.03 crore till then from monetisation of its assets in prime locations such as Mumbai and Chennai. The monetisation included the sale of six flats at Sterling apartment, Mumbai to the State Bank of India with each of these flats fetching ₹ 22 crore, the ministry had said.

The ministry had also said Air India collected ₹ 291 crore as lease rental from the Air India building at Nariman Point, Mumbai, between 2012-13 and January 2018. Air India’s debt load is estimated to be more than ₹ 50,000 crore.