Mumbai: AirAsia has joined force with the Tata group. Budget airline AirAsia India could see a change in ownership structure with Tata Group possibly increasing its stake in the over one-year-old carrier to emerge as its largest shareholder.
AirAsia Group chief Tony Fernandes was quoted telling a local business media channel that discussions were on between the salt-to-software conglomerate and Arun Bhatia-owned Telestra Tradeplace.
The Tatas now own 30% stake in AirAsia India while AirAsia Berhad owns 49%. The rest is with private investor Arun Bhatia through his investment holding company, Telestra Tradeplace.
On May 27, a leading national daily, citing unnamed sources, reported that Bhatia was reportedly looking to sell his 21% stake in the airline.
Since the launch of AirAsia India, there has been speculation on and off that Bhatia was looking to exit the venture, reportedly citing his unhappiness over Tata Group’s other airline business through Vistara, and AirAsia India’s delay in making money.
Tata has another airline joint venture in India for a full service airline.
Tata SIA Airlines, known by its brand name Vistara, is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA) with Tata Sons holding the majority stake of 51% in the company and SIA holding the remaining 49%.
A Tata Sons spokesperson said, “As and when we have information to share, we will inform you.” Typically, in joint venture agreements, partners have the first right to buy out the other and it’s only when they rule it out that an external party can lay claim.