Tata Sons, India’s autos-to-steel conglomerate, is expected to submit an initial bid for state-run carrier Air India ahead of the auction’s deadline on Monday evening, sources aware of the matter told Reuters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in January renewed its push to sell its entire interest in the loss-making airline, which has been kept aloft by a bailout since 2012.

An effort to auction a majority stake almost two years ago drew no bids, forcing the government to ease terms. It has also extended the deadline multiple times this year due to Covid-19 and further eased the terms to attract bidders.

The airline industry around the world has been hammered by a slump in travel due to restrictions aimed at containing the novel coronavirus.

A Tata spokesperson declined to comment.

Tata already operates two airlines in India — full-service carrier Vistara, which is in partnership with Singapore Airlines, and budget airline AirAsia India along with Malaysia’s AirAsia Group.

A successful bidder would win control of Air India’s 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at domestic airports, as well as 900 slots at airports overseas.

It would also get 100 percent of the low-cost arm Air India Express and 50 percent of AISATS, which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports, the bid document showed.

A group of over 200 Air India employees have also submitted an initial bid for the carrier in partnership with a private financier, Business Standard newspaper reported earlier on Monday.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah, editing by Louise Heavens)

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Photo Credit: A group of 200 Air India employees has also submitted an initial bid for the carrier, according to reports. Dylan Agbagni (CC0) / Flickr