The move to sell
headquarters in Mumbai has gained steam with several companies showing interest in the property. “Many government entities have shown interest (in the AI HQ). The matter is being discussed with them. However, the character of this iconic structure will be maintained irrespective of ownership,” aviation secretary R N Choubey told TOI.
Multiple state-owned entities showing interest in the building make bidding and a successful transaction a possibility in the government’s latest attempt to sell AI’s HQ.
Earlier this year, only Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) had shown interest in the high-rise. But the process could not go forward as a single party meant no bidding and the government did not want any charge of selling the property at a price lower than its true value.
AI currently retains five floors in this Queen’s Necklace 23-storey marvel and gets about Rs 107 crore as rental annually from the rest.
When the JNPT deal did not materialise, the airline planned to vacate some more floors and increase its annual rental to Rs 120-125 crore.
The move to sell the prime property — which could be Mumbai’s equivalent of New York’s “Top of the Rock” Rockefeller Plaza if public is allowed to go to the rooftop and enjoy an unparalleled view of the city — gains momentum as the government has cleared transferring of almost half of AI’s total debt of Rs 60,000 crore.
Secretary Choubey had last Thursday said the government had approved transferring Rs 29,000-30,000 crore of AI’s debt to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) — AI Asset Holding Co.
The airline’s non-core assets and its ground handling agency AI Air Transport Services (AIATSL) will also be transferred to the SPV. The government has started the sale process of AIATSL, which it wants to exit fully.
Funds raised from selling assets will be used to reduce the debt with the SPV. The government aims to raise up to Rs 9,000 crore by selling AI’s prime properties, including Nariman Point HQ and land in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar and near Connaught Place.