Air India calls off plan to sell Mumbai tower to JNPT
Cash-strapped national carrier Air India has abandoned plans to sell its iconic 23-storey tower at Nariman Point in Mumbai to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to raise funds.
“That matter is closed now,” a government official briefed on the development said. “The board of Air India does not want to sell the tower,” he said. Asking not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media,. the official did not attribute any reason to the board’s change of stance.
Air India could not be reached for comment immediately.
Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, didn’t reply on Saturday when asked about the status of JNPT’s plan.
The tower built in 1974, was designed by John Burgee of New York-based firm Johnson and Burgee. It was the corporate head quarters of Air India until 2013 when it shifted base to New Delhi following a 2007 merger with Indian Airlines, another State-owned company that operated on domestic routes.
Air India privatisation
The move to sell the 2.2 l sq ft building to cash-rich and India’s busiest container port was mooted a few days after a plan to privatise the carrier fell through for lack of bidder interest.
The idea behind the move was to give a much-needed liquidity boost to Air India while ensuring that the iconic building remained with the government.
Air India’s decision to backtrack from its earlier plan to sell the Mumbai tower is reflected in the list of assets identified for hiving off during strategic disinvestment (read privatisation) by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), the asset sale department of the Central government, on its website.
The Air India Tower does not figure in the list, though, it includes the Airlines House, the current headquarters of the carrier, in New Delhi.
Aviation industry watchers see this as an indication of the airline moving its headquarters back to Mumbai in future.