Tata Group, one of India's largest multi-industry conglomerates, has emerged as the only bidder interested in acquiring Air India (AI, Mumbai Int'l), ET Now has reported.

Unnamed sources said the group had already appointed a law firm to look into a possible transaction and had also held talks with the government. However, any formal expressions of interest have yet to be announced. The current deadline for binding bids falls on August 31, 2020, although the Indian government is reportedly prepared to extend it given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tata already owns 51% stakes in two Indian joint venture airlines; Vistara (UK, Delhi Int'l) (with Singapore Airlines Group) and AirAsia India (I5, Chennai) (with AirAsia Group). The holding's chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has previously said that the group would seek to merge Air India with one of its other two airlines, presumably full-service carrier Vistara, should it succeed in the privatisation process.

Following a failed attempt to sell a 76% stake in Air India in 2018, this time the Government of India has put up all of the flag carrier share capital up for sale.

Air India dates its history back to Tata Airlines, established in 1932 by J. R. D. Tata, the third Chairman of Tata Group. The airline was gradually nationalised and renamed Air-India (AI, Mumbai Int'l) after the country's independence in 1947.