The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion for permitting foreign airlines to make foreign investment, up to 49 percent in scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services.
Removing the existing restriction on investment by foreign airlines would assist in bringing in strategic investors into the civil aviation sector. Higher foreign investment inflows are necessary at the present juncture, in order to strengthen the sector. Introduction of global best practices, concomitant with the induction of FDI from foreign airlines, is expected to lead to higher service standards, international best practices and induction of state-of-the-art technologies, in the air transport sector.
Until now, foreign airlines were allowed to participate in the equity of companies operating cargo airlines, helicopter and seaplane services, but not in the equity of an air transport undertaking operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services. The Government has now permitted foreign airlines to invest, under the Government approval route, in the capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, up to the limit of 49 percent of their paid up capital. The 49 percent limit will subsume FDI and FII investment. The investments so made, would need to comply with the relevant regulations of SEBI, such as the Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements (ICDR) Regulations / Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers (SAST) Regulations, as well as other applicable rules and regulations. Such investment would further be subject to the conditions that:
(i) A Scheduled Operator’s Permit can be granted only to a company:
a. That is registered and has its principal place of business within India,
b. The Chairman and at least two-thirds of the Directors of which are citizens of India, and
c. The substantial ownership and effective control of which is vested in Indian nationals.
(ii) All foreign nationals likely to be associated with Indian Scheduled and Non-Scheduled air transport services, as a result of such investment, shall be cleared from security view point before deployment, and
(iii) All technical equipment that might be imported into India, as a result of such investment, shall require clearance from the relevant authority in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The issue of permitting FDI by foreign airlines in the equity of an air transport undertaking operating Scheduled and Non-Scheduled air transport services has been under consideration of Government for some time. There has been a need to consider financing options available for private airlines in the country, for their operations and service upgradation, and to enable them to compete with other global carriers. Denial of access to foreign capital could result in the collapse of many of our domestic airlines, creating a systemic risk for financial institutions, and a vital gap in the country’s infrastructure.
The total FDI inflows into the air transport sector, during January, 2000 – April, 2012, were US $ 434.75 million, constituting only 0.25 percent of the total FDI inflows into the country.