AI board approves purchase of 21 Airbus aircraft

The board of directors of Air India yesterday decided to ask ICICI Bank Ltd to refinance the national flag carrier's $1.15 billion (Rs.5,220 crore) loan to purchase Airbus A320 aircraft. Earlier last week, the board had decidec to choose from ICICI Bank, State Bank of India (SBI) and Standard Chartered Plc to refinance the loan taken from an IDBI-led consortium towards the acquisition of 21 Airbus SAS planes, spare engines, simulators and workshop tools.

The board has also cleared the delivery financing of three Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft and one GE-90 spare engine with US Exim support worth $475 million according to Mint newspaper. The mandate for this was awarded to Citibank for 85 per cent and Standard Chartered Bank for 15 per cent.

State-owned Air India, in a statement, said it had approved disposing of four Airbus 310 passenger aircraft along with the simulators and dry leasing 10 Airbus A320 aircraft and two Airbus A330 aircraft to replace the ageing fleet. The carrier has also ratified a decision for continuation of the dry lease of four B737-800 aircraft for its low-cost service Air India Express.

Air India Express would now have a fleet of 21, including aircraft it owns. The board has approved the acquisition of 30 acres of land near Nagpur special economic zone for setting up setting up of an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

Also Deloitte Consulting India has been asked by the board to team up with SBI Capital Markets Ltd (SBI CAPS), an arm of SBI, to formalise Air India's turnaround and financial restructuring proposal by next week.

Deloitte was retained to finalise the restructuring proposals of various consultants while SBI Caps was engaged for pure financial restructuring.

According to one of the board members mentioned earlier, Deloitte and SBI Caps would make a joint presentation for a high-level committee comprising government officials including secretary of civil aviation next week. He added the committee would then finalise the final restructuring plan.

The board meeting was convened close on the heels of changes in the civil aviation ministry that saw civil aviation minister Praful Patel being replaced by Vayalar Ravi.