GoM allows airlines to directly import jet fuel

 

While the decision on direct import of ATF and allowing foreign airlines to invest would go to the Union Cabinet for a final nod, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs would take up Air India’s financial restructuring plan for approval soon, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters in New Delhi

New Delhi: In major initiatives to strengthen the cash-strapped aviation sector, a Group of Ministers (GoM) today decided to allow airlines to directly import jet fuel to enable them save on high incidence of tax and permit Air India to raise Rs7,400 crore by issuing bonds or other means.

The GoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, was also apprised of the decision to allow foreign airlines pick up 49% stake in Indian carriers.

While the decisions on direct import of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and allowing foreign airlines to invest would go to the Union Cabinet for a final nod, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs would take up Air India’s financial restructuring plan for approval soon, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters after the 90-minute meeting here.

“First thing is that on Air India’s financial restructuring, the GoM has taken a view. Bonds will be issued, but this will have to go to the Cabinet. Bonds, and there are other ways, GoM has more or less taken a view on this,” he said, adding that about Rs7,400 crore would be raised through these means.

On ATF imports, Mr Singh said “airline companies will be allowed to import fuel directly for their use. This also has to go to the Cabinet. GoM has approved this. We will try to see whether some kind of credit arrangement can be made.” 

The meeting was also attended by home minister P Chidambaram, petroleum minister S Jaipal Reddy, commerce minister Anand Sharma and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, apart from top officials. 

To questions on allowing foreign airlines to buy equity in Indian carriers, the civil aviation minister said the issue, on which a decision was taken earlier, did not come up before the GoM which was apprised of the issue.

“FDI (by foreign carriers) did not come before the GoM. I met finance minister (17th January). We are moving a note. Then it will be moved to the Cabinet. It is basically for allowing 49% FDI by foreign airlines. I expect this note to be sent soon,” Mr Singh said.

Asked about government infusing additional equity of about Rs6,600 crore in Air India, official sources said this would also be done. Allowing the ailing national carrier to raise funds through government-guaranteed bonds or other means was “over and above equity infusion decision”, they said.

Banks and financial institutions had proposed several measures to beef up Air India’s net worth and these were among the measures approved by the GoM, the sources said.

Official figures show the debt-ridden carrier has outstanding loans and dues worth Rs67,520 crore, of which Rs21,200 crore is working capital loan, Rs22,000 crore is long-term loan on fleet acquisition, Rs ,600 crore is vendor dues besides an accumulated loss of Rs20,320 crore.

On jet fuel imports, they said the procedure for direct import of ATF and filling up the planes would be decided in the coming days.

Noting that flights were disrupted when oil companies suddenly stopped fuel supplies to airlines due to non-payment of dues, the sources said, “Some ways have to be worked out to see that this does not happen.” 

In the same vein, Mr Singh also said that “we have to see if any step can be taken to avoid such situations. Now the airlines are given a three-month credit period by oil companies.”

The sources said FDI was one of the key factors that would help the industry to survive the current financial crisis. A Committee of Secretaries has proposed a 49% cap on FDI by foreign airlines.

“We all know that the aviation industry is under a lot of stress. Allowing foreign airlines to pick up stake in Indian carriers would mark a major policy shift,” Mr Singh had said.

Earlier, foreign airlines were not allowed to invest in Indian airlines, though foreign direct investment of up to 49% was allowed.

While the civil aviation ministry had suggested 24% as the limit, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had recommended 26%.

At present foreign investment of up to 49% is permitted in the aviation sector, apart from 100% in MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul), airports, helicopter and sea-plane operations, but foreign carriers are not allowed to invest in their Indian counterparts.

 

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Govt pegs 2011-12 economic growth at 3-year low of 6.9%

The latest GDP growth estimate of 6.9% for the entire fiscal means that the pace of economic expansion slowed in the second half of 2011-12, given that GDP growth in the April-September, 2011, period stood at 7.3%

New Delhi: The country’s economic growth is likely to fall to a three-year low of 6.9% in 2011-12, mainly due to sharp slowdown in manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors against 8.4% expansion in the last fiscal, reports PTI.

Agriculture and allied activities are likely to grow at 2.5% in 2011-12 compared to a robust growth of 7% in 2010-11, according to the Advanced Estimates released today by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).

Manufacturing growth is also expected to drop down to 3.9% in this fiscal from 7.6% last year.

The CSO’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection is a tad lower than the 7% forecast made by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its quarterly monetary policy review last month.

In its mid-year Economic Review, the government had also pegged growth at around 7.5%. The current estimate is a sharply lower than the 9% growth projection for 2011-12 made by the government in its pre-Budget survey in February last year. 

The latest GDP growth estimate of 6.9% for the entire fiscal means that the pace of economic expansion slowed in the second half of 2011-12, given that GDP growth in the April-September, 2011, period stood at 7.3%.

According to the advance estimates, mining and quarrying is likely to witness a decline of 2.2% compared to a growth of 5% a year ago.

Growth in construction is also likely to slip to 4.8% in 2011-12 against an 8% in 2010-11.

Furthermore, the finance, insurance, real estate and business services sectors are likely to grow by 9.1% this fiscal against 10.4% last fiscal.

Commenting on the GDP growth estimates, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said: “The 6.9% is consistent with what we have been saying.

“We said 7% for year (2011-12) as whole. (With) 7.3% in the first half and 6.9% in the third quarter, 7% is possible.”

According to the data, growth in electricity, gas and water production is, however, likely to be better this year.

The segments are expected to grow up by 8.3% in 2011-12 against 3% in 2010-11.

During the current fiscal, the trade, hotel, transport and communication sectors are projected to grow by 11.2% against 11.1% last fiscal.

Community, social and personal services are pegged to witness a growth of 5.9% compared to 4.5% in the year-ago period.

The government and the RBI had earlier said that global economic slowdown and the high domestic interest rate regime is likely to act as a dampener in this fiscal’s growth.

However, the 6.9% growth projected in the advanced estimates is lower than what experts have been forecasting.

The Indian economy had expanded by 8.4% in both 2010-11 and 2009-10, while growth in 2008-09 was 6.7%.

The advance GDP estimates are released before the end of a financial year to enable the government to formulate various estimates for inclusion in the Budget.

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