Amid Jet Airways temporarily shutting down its operations, Tata group has raised its stake in Air Asia India to around 51 per cent, thus securing a controlling stake. Tata, along with its partner Air Asia Investments, has injected Rs 500 crore to finance its international growth plans. After the development, the group is now holding controlling stakes in two private airlines operating in India, the other being Vistara where Tatas controls 51 per cent. The minority 49 per cent share in Vistara is owned by Singapore International Airlines.
As per the earlier holding, Air Asia and Tata group have 49 per cent stake each in the Air Asia with rest 2 per cent being held by Tata Trusts managing partner R Venkataramanan and group executive S Ramadorai. Financial daily, The Economic Times reported that Air Asia received funds of Rs 500 crores on April 8, of which 51 per cent was invested by the Tata group. One of the sources privy to the development said, "Stake allocation to Venkataramanan and Ramadorai was a business decision and the group now owns 51% in the airline".
Notably, this is the first times that the Tata group has become the largest shareholder since the airline's inception in 2014. During its initial days of operations, Air Asia group held 49 per cent stakes, 30 per cent stake was held by Tata group and another 21 per cent was owned by Arun Bhatia's Telestra Tradeplace. Tata Sons, Venkataramanan and Ramadorai bought the stakes held by Telestra Tradeplace when the latter exited the airline business in 2014. Eventually, Tatas also took over the management control of Air Asia recently with key posts being held by group representatives. In November 2018, Sunil Bhaskaran, a Tata Steel veteran, assumed the chief executive and managing director post of the airline.
Interestingly, the Tata group has secured the majority stake in the airline at a time when Air Asia and Tony Fernandes, the Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Berhad are being investigated by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly bribing government officials. The investigative agency has alleged Tony and other senior officials of bribing bureaucrats in the aviation ministry to get the waiver in overseas flying eligibility norms of five years and 20 aircraft. Air Asia India, as well as Vistara, have applied for approvals to expand its operations overseas.