El Al attempts to block Air India's trans-Saudi route

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The government on Wednesday issued a preliminary information memorandum (PIM) while inviting an expression of interest (EoI) from parties to sell 76% of its stake in the national carrier Air India, which owns 100% shareholding in low-priced airline Air India Express Ltd and 50% in Air India SATs, which provides airport ground handling services.

Meanwhile, Indian government planned to sell the stakes in Air India with the condition that the brand "Air India" will be retained and the control of the national-carrier will be with Indian nationals. Other carriers which are reportedly inclined towards acquiring Air India include Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Tata group-promoted Vistara. The Minister of State for Civil Aviation added that the government will cede all control of the airline and keep only a residual stake.

Air India was founded in the 1930s and is known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot.

Modi's cabinet gave the go-ahead past year to sell the loss-making flagship airline after successive governments spent billions of dollars to keep it solvent.

Talking about the govt's Air India disinvestment plan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "Air India's market share today is around 14% while the debt is Rs 50,000 crore while the government has not put in private carriers".

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"However, we will keep our options open with respect to the proposed divestment of Air India, " The Singaporean carrier said in a statement.

India's biggest airline, Indigo, has expressed an interest in the proposal and an undisclosed foreign buyer is also said to be looking at the deal.

Certain sections of the media have reported that the EL Al may have petitioned to cancel the authorization of direct Air India flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv via Saudi airspace.

Bidding can be done as a single player or as part of a consortium. In case of domestic airlines with a negative net worth, the consortium's ownership will be restricted to 51 percent.

". There will be some time for those parties who are interested, they will go through the document and come out with the expression of interest", he said.