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Air India: Selling family silver to ease finances

New Delhi. Cash-strapped Air India is looking forward to using assets it has built up over the years like pricless paintings, sculptures and even a prime property to ease financial stress.

The company has in its possession paintings by artists like the late M.F. Husain, exotic wood carvings, centuries-old sculptures and other authentic artifacts, and a prime property in Mumbai.

According to a company official, plans are being finalised to rent out some of these magnificent pieces and the iconic Nariman Point headquarters in Mumbai.

“We are planning to appoint a consultant for cataloguing and valuation of the art works,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

“The art works may be rented out to galleries around the world. On a later stage these may be sold as well,” he said, not wishing to be identified.

The consultant that will be hired by the airline will have a hard time to put exact value to the huge collection which deals with Indian history and culture.

The richness of the stuff can be gauged by the fact that some 18 paintings of Husain are part of the collection. Some of these date back to the 1940s.

Each of these paintings can command a price of no less than Rs.5-6 crore in open bidding process, the official said.

Other artifacts under the carrier’s possession include centuries-old exotic wooden carvings portraying mythology. For example, a carving shows Ravana carrying Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha.

Most of these 400 artifacts adorn the walls of the Mumbai building and the airline’s offices in New York, London and Paris.

The iconic 22-storey Air India building at Nariman Point which house the chairman and managing director’s office can command a handsome rent of Rs.290-350 per square feet.

“The plan is to retain the top three floors of the building, while the rest would be rented out. We expect to get anywhere between Rs.30-40 crore per annum. We will go for an open tender for the renting process,” the official said.

Currently, two floors in the building are rented out to information technology major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) while an area approximately of one floor is given out to other small offices.

Renting out the art works and the building is expected to fetch the company around Rs.100 crore annually. Sale of these can easily bring in Rs.10,000 crore, said the official.

The airline plans to shift executives to its New Delhi office at Airlines House in Parliament Street.

The move is expected to provide financial relief to the company which currently is reeling under an accumulated losses and loans of around Rs.67,520 crore.

The company has taken Rs.21,200 crore as the working capital loan, Rs.22,000 crore worth of long-term loans for aircraft acquisition, Rs. 4,600 crore of vendor bills and an accumulated loss of Rs.20,320 crore.

The government in April approved a turnaround plan and a financial restructure plan for which it will receive some Rs.30,000 crore worth of equity infusion over a period of nine years.

The proposal to rent out the artifacts and the Mumbai building is not part of the turnaround plan.

The overstaffed airline, which is constantly in labour trouble and is also blamed for poor onboard service, has been on government doles for long but it hasn’t helped.


© India Strategic