India's plan to sell 60 percent of its Air India shares has sparked the interest of major investors in the Gulf.
Businessmen from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have suggested setting up a Gulf Investment Fund, supervised by a successful Gulf airline, to bid for the Air India shares.
Mike Simon, director of communications administration at Emirates Air, said the Gulf’s large airlines have shown great interest in the deal. Emirates Air bought 40 percent of Air Sri Lanka last month and, Simon said, it is interested in expanding its investments in the Indian sub-continent.
He said Emirates Air was waiting for details of the Indian government’s offer. Simon said Emirates Air would be chosen to supervise the proposed Gulf Investment Fund. Experts say Air India will unveil its privatization plans soon - the company has set March 2001 as the target date for finalizing the transfer.
Air India is considered an important carrier in the Gulf with daily flights to all Gulf airports. Indians are the largest group of foreign workers in the Gulf and use the airline extensively.
India and Pakistan have issued official invitations to Prince Walid Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia to discuss investment opportunities in their countries. Bin Talal, an international entrepreneur, has not said what type of investment he might consider, but he is known to like investing in successful global travel and tourism concerns.
In 1948 Air India began flights outside India to Egypt, London and Geneva. It now operates in Asia, Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Gulf countries, among many others. The airline has two Boeing 747s, eight Airbus 310s and seven 747-200s. –(Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )