Senior bureaucrat Pradeep Singh Kharola on Monday took charge as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India.
The development comes after the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on November 28, 2017, named Kharola as the new CMD of Air India with a rank and pay of a Secretary in the central government.
An 1985 batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre, he was presently Managing Director of the Bengaluru Metro. Kharola replaces Rajiv Bansal, Financial Advisor to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, and also holding additional charge of Air India CMD.
Kharola’s appointment comes at a time when a ministerial group has been formed to look into the modalities of Air India’s divestment process.
The Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism, headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has been mandated to guide the strategic divestment process and to decide on key issues such as treatment of the airline’s debt and hiving-off of its assets.
The demerger and strategic divestment of its three profit-making subsidiaries, the quantum of disinvestment and the universe of bidders is also on the group’s agenda.
Recently, the government appointed consultancy firm EY as the transaction advisor for the strategic divestment.
Till now budget passenger carrier IndiGo has evinced interest in buying the airline’s international operations and its subsidiary Air India Express.
In addition, aviation industry majors SATS, Bird Group and Celebi have shown interest in buying Air India’s ground handling unit.
Currently, the airline is under massive debt burden of Rs 50,000 crore, had posted an operating profit of Rs 105 crore in 2015-16.
For the last fiscal (2016-17), the company was expected to report an improved operating profit margin.
The national flag carrier in April 12, 2012, got a new lease of life when the then UPA government had approved a Rs 30,000-crore turnaround and financial restructuring package spanning up to 2021.