New Delhi, April 21:

The proposed initial public offerings (IPO) of India’s state-owned airlines Air-India (AI) and Indian Airlines (IA) will take place only after the companies are merged, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said today.

“Though we want to complete the process (IPO) within the first six months of this fiscal, there has been a suggestion that a merged entity would have a better valuation,” Patel said. Speaking on the sidelines of a tour and travel mart inauguration, he said the IPOs would be announced in the current fiscal year itself.

Official sources said the basic plan to merge the two airlines, AI and IA into a Rs 130 billion ($2.9 billion) flagship carrier is likely to come up for cabinet approval by July. The process has taken off after the prime minister’s office gave a go ahead to chart out a merger path in the last week of March.

According to Patel, “the idea is to consolidate and optimise the use of the assets of the two public sector airlines”. The merged AI-IA airline will have a combined fleet str-ength of about 130 aircraft in the next few years.