Jan 13, 2009

Business - India;Govt mulls to allow 25pc FDI to shore up aviation sector

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of the major financial crisis faced by the Indian aviation sector, the government is toying with the idea of allowing
foreign airlines to pick up about 25 per cent stake in cash-strapped Indian carriers.

This is one of the proposals being considered by the government. The present FDI policy in aviation does not allow foreign airlines to invest in Indian carriers.

However, no formal decision has yet been taken and the proposal, backed by demands from Kingfisher Airlines promoter Vijay Mallya, is one among several ideas being considered by the government, Civil Aviation Ministry officials said, adding a note of caution that "we may or may not do it".

"Some different measures need to be taken to see that an untoward situation, financial or otherwise, does not arise in the running of an airline," they said, reminding of the early 1990s when several Indian airlines closed down.

As per the proposal, FDI by an airline, with a cap of 20-25 per cent, was "one of the options" being considered, they said, adding that any change in the FDI policy would have to be cleared by the Union Cabinet.

When contacted, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said, "There is no clarity on the issue as yet. It is only one of the options which are being considered."

The officials said that keeping in mind the serious financial difficulties faced by the airlines, the government has asked oil companies to defer by six months the repayment of airlines' dues. Other measures like abolition of five per cent customs duty on jet fuel were also taken.

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