Air India divestment More positives than negatives to a Maharajas selloff

first_imgAUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH: The government should expedite Air India’s sale by increasing the higher FDI component for foreign buyers who can employ the right professional expertise and marketing know-how to turn around the beleaguered airline.Creative CommonsBad mergers create bad blood – in the skies and on the ground. When the government merged India’s two state-owned airlines in 2007, Air India and domestic carrier Indian Airlines, the combined entity would soon grow into a megalith symbolising all the shortcomings of India’s public sector.In just a generation, competition from the private sector, rising fuel costs as a percentage of operational expenditure, strikes by opposing factions of pilots, freebies and upgrades to politicians and bureaucrats, and huge discounting would move the Maharaja from monopolising air travel to being only India’s third largest airline with a 11.8 percent market share.But the literal bottomline here is: Air India has lost money almost every year since its merger despite the UPA II government infusing Rs 30,000 crore into Air India under a financial restructuring plan (FRP). Total equity infused in the airline thus far is Rs 22,280 crore. Banks currently have an exposure of about Rs 53,980 crore.A diverting fact is that state-owned Air India utilised government bailouts while launching price wars with other airlines as part of its survival requirements, leading to the logical conclusion that the government was helping subsidise monopolistic behaviour.Another FRP by the present BJP dispensation to infuse Rs 42,182 crore as additional equity over 22 years has been delayed as the airline grapples with the problem of handling over Rs 50,000 crore in debt, of which an estimated Rs 23,000 crore is by way of aircraft loan advances. It is a no-win situation exacerbated by the airline’s asset deterioration down the years and its inability to even control its operating losses since 2011.Last year, for the first time in about a decade, Air India managed to post Rs 105 crore in operating profit (net loss after tax in 2016 — Rs 3,836.77 crore) on the back of fresh capital infusion from the government and lower ATF prices. But was the intangible benefits of holding on to a 13 percent market share worth splattering more red ink on a battered balance-sheet? The government didn’t think so. Its decision to divest the national carrier spoke of the triumph of experience over, often unrealistic, hope.Dreams Un-linedThe national career was a symbol of public sector ingenuity and operational inventiveness down the decades till its much- ballyhooed merger with Indian Airlines. Then, the losses started piling up with fresh competition from the private sector on key sectors within India. Even Vijay Mallya’s doomed Kingfisher took valuable market share away from Air India. Middle East carriers like Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways gained top-of-the-mind recall for expatriate travellers to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah and Muscat.For a government long in denial about the dismal picture which Air India presented, the benefits of disinvesting the airline in a single swoop are far more than taking a piecemeal approach as recommended by critics who suggest that it retain 51 percent in the asset-heavy airline. Air India owns prime land in cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, the sale of which, disinvestment supporters expect will vault the airline out of troubled times. But this asset class, going by the airline’s own assessment, would yield only Rs 10,000 crore which is not a scratch on its huge debt burden. Raghavendra NThe Dreamliner aircraft and its entitled pilot crews have remained a thorn in the airline’s flesh to this day. Pilot strikes and mutinies since 2012 and largescale operational mismanagement took the airlines to a new low. The airline incurred operational losses of Rs 5,537 crore in 2012 (or Rs 15 crore every day). Subsequent years were not too different, though going by the government’s claims, Air India was actually paring down its losses fiscal after fiscal.Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had exuded confidence about the airline’s performance since last year, and earlier this year, asserted that it would show operating profits of Rs 300 crore in 2016-17, and the government had no plans to privatise the airline – till the latter poured cold water over his enthusiasm by announcing that a disinvestment program to sell the airline and recover its losses would soon be underway.The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) made things stickier when it said that the airline had actually posted operating losses of Rs 321.40 crore in the April-June period of 2015-16, when the government had claimed a profit.But Air India said that its operational performance targets were in line with the turnaround plan. A spokesperson said that “considerable improvement” in on-time performance at 78.2 percent was achieved in 2015-16 as compared to 68.2 percent in 2011-12. The available evidence didn’t justify the airline’s claims.Taking the debt-free roadThe logical answer to Air India’s problems is privatisation — but politicians and bureaucrats, who misuse India’s flag carrier as much as its employees do –, would baulk at such a move. Air India has been surviving on the Rs 30,000-crore bailout package put together by UPA-II in 2012 to help its turnaround, as well as debt relief provided by public sector banks. It is estimated that even a well executed asset sale may not fully cover the airline’s liabilities, and taxpayers cannot escape footing part of the loss — either directly in case the government pays off the airline’s creditors, or indirectly if the public sector banks write off their loans to the airline.The three options on the table could be a full 100 percent selloff, a 74 percent stake sale or retaining a 49 percent share in the airline, as per a tentative note from the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Raghavendra NThe decision to form an Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism to take forward the disinvestment plan is timely. But this Mechanism should first shed clarity on how the eventual sale will be executed — whether the airline will be fully privatised or hived off asset-wise to interested bidders like IndiGo, which has expressed interest in buying out the carrier’s international operations and peak hour landing slots in airports like London and New York. These slots if sold should fetch the government at least Rs 3,000 crore.A sale of market slots in airports like Delhi and Mumbai would be attractive to foreign airlines to invest in India, though the government’s stakeholding and quantum of divestment will come under their scrutiny before entering the bidding fray. Experts have suggested that the value of the heritage Air India brand can’t be overlooked either, when even Kingfisher’s hostile lenders valued that brand at Rs 160 crore.If both foreign and prospective domestic buyers like Indigo, are allowed to bid freely for the airline, more value could be realised from a sale. There have been suggestions to add more value to the airline’s assets by hiving off non-core assets with high profit potential into a shell company and demerger and strategic disinvestment of profit-making subsidiaries. This make sense only if the government considers making key changes in its FDI policy to allow foreign investors to buy a more substantial stake in Air India. If it is possible to invest 74 percent FDI in telecom, then why not in aviation?The highly rated Tata-Air Asia Berhad JV which saw Air Asia grabbing a foothold in the huge Indian market, has still not fulfilled its initial promise. Going by the record, almost all airlines that have lost money have only themselves to blame. Their painpoints include inefficient operations, aggressive expansion without consolidation, balance-sheets which are leveraged unduly high, improper route planning and wrong pricing of tickets. These factors have contributed more to the downfall of many an airline meeting its Waterloo in the Indian aviation market, rather than the market itself — which is growing and has many milestones ahead of it. Carriers like IndiGo have excelled in the same market. Stabilising Air India will be an important step ahead for Indian aviation. For a start, in the event of a successful sale, the government and its ministries must start seeing Air India as a revenue source and not a revenue generator.last_img read more

BJP set to sweep Delhi civic polls

first_imgThe BJP was on Wednesday set to sweep the Delhi civic polls, leading in over 140 wards and has won six wards so far, according to the Delhi State Election Commission.The Aam Aadmi Party, was at second spot, leading in 40 wards and has won one ward so far.The Congress was at third spot, and was leading in 28 wards.In the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, the BJP has won two wards — Ramnagar and Krishnanagar.In the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the BJP has won three wards — Janakpuri West, Janakpuri South and Vishnu Garden.In North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the BJP has won Rajinder Nagar.The AAP has won Shakurpur in North Delhi Municipal Corporation.last_img

SolidState Drives Versus HardDisk Drives in Laptops

first_img The idea of using flash-based storage in a notebook isn’t new. Nevertheless, the high cost of flash has prevented it from replacing hard-disk drives on mainstream notebook PCs, despite some advantages in power consumption, shock resistance, and speed–until now.Photograph: Robert CardinAs prices continue to drop, flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) have become viable options for handling your notebook’s primary storage requirements. Moreover, today’s roomiest SSDs have 32GB of memory, enough to do more than satisfy basic storage needs–making them competitive with 1.8-inch hard-disk drives, which range in capacity from 30GB to 80GB. These SSDs, available from companies like Samsung and SanDisk, are lightweight (the SanDisk UATA 5000, for example, weighs 59 grams–just over 2 ounces) and can be found in portables from Dell, Fujitsu, and Toshiba.Are they worth the extra dollars? In spite of price drops, SSDs cost $400 to $500 more than ordinary hard drives of the same capacity. To justify the price difference, SSD notebooks must demonstrate significant performance benefits over notebooks equipped with standard hard drives. To find out whether they do, we tested three pairs of ultraportable notebooks from Fujitsu and Dell.The SSD ChallengePhotograph: Rob CardinThe two test models in each pair of laptops were identically configured, except that one had an SSD, and the other a typical 1.8-inch 4200-rpm hard drive. Two of the notebooks–Dell’s 6.25-pound ATG D620 ($3015 with SSD, $2815 with a 80GB hard-disk drive) and Fujitsu’s 2.5-pound LifeBook P1610 ($2578 with SSD, $2029 with a 30GB hard-disk drive)– ran Windows XP Professional. The third notebook, another LifeBook P1610 ($2548 with SSD, $1999 with a 30GB hard-disk drive) ran Windows Vista Business.No Clear WinnerResults were mixed: In several cases, our tests bore out the advantages of SSD, in other cases, the hard-disk-based models led the way.Photograph: Rob CardinOur benchmark suite for testing system performance, WorldBench 6, Beta 2, showed no definite pattern in overall results between SSD systems and hard-disk-drive systems. For example, the two Dell ATG D620 models, packed with a 2.0-GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU and 1GB of memory, each earned a mark of 76 on WorldBench 6. In contrast, the two Fujitsu LifeBook P1610 units, configured with a 1.2-GHz Core Solo U1400, 1GB of memory, and Windows XP Professional, differed in performance: The SSD version received a score of 42, while the hard-drive version received a 39.Interestingly, the performance difference was even more pronounced in the pair of Fujitsu P1610 models running Windows Vista Business. Here, the SSD version of the notebook finished with a 36 on our WorldBench 6 beta tests, while the hard-drive version posted only a 30. The Vista-based Fujitsu system with the SSD did especially well on our Adobe Photoshop CS2 image manipulation test, besting the hard-drive version by 36 percent, and on our Nero 7 Ultra Edition disk burning test, where it outperformed its counterpart by 76 percent.The SSDs achieved superior performance in all three pairings on only two types of applications: drive-intensive tests like our Nero 7 Ultra Edition disc burning, and WinZip 10.0 file compression tests. The SSD versions of the two Fujitsus also earned higher marks than their hard-disk doppelgangers on our Photoshop CS2 test, but on that test the hard-disk Dell outran the SSD Dell by 10 percent.SSDs Rock on Hard-Drive-Intensive TasksWe did see decisive performance wins by the SSD models on the file read and write tests that we use for our hard-drive testing. (The read and write tests consist of reading and writing folders of files, and searching for files on a drive.) On these tests, the SSD models bested their hard-drive counterparts in 11 out of 12 instances. Occasionally, the scores were close: On our Windows file search of 6.1GB of data, for example, the SDD Fujitsu Vista Business system notebook finished the test in 86 seconds, while its hard-drive-based twin finished the test in 100 seconds. Still, in most cases, the SSD models were dramatically faster. The most extreme example: The XP Pro Fujitsu finished our large-file reading and writing test in 199 seconds, far ahead of the hard drive-equipped model, which finished the test in 533 seconds.SSDs Deliver Only Slight Battery Life EdgeThough industry experts routinely boast that flash memory consumes less power than hard drives do, our battery tests found little real-world difference between the two drive types on this measure.The SSD version of the Dell ATG D620 lasted 5 hours, 40 minutes in our test, just 3 minutes longer than the hard-disk-equipped version lasted. The SSD Fujitsu P1610 with XP held out for 3 hours, 11 minutes–7 minutes longer than its hard-drive counterpart. And the SSD Fujitsu P1610 running Vista Business bested the hard-drive version by 9 minutes (2 hours, 26 minutes versus 2 hours, 17 minutes). The advantage in battery life boost would almost certainly increase for the SSD models if they were matched against hard-drive laptops with drives larger than the 4200-rpm components we used. The faster a disk spins, the more power is required to spin it.SSD’s Other BenefitsNumbers don’t tell the whole story about solid-state drives. SSDs also tend to be more rugged than a standard hard drive because the NAND flash memory they use lacks the moving parts found in a hard drive. Drop your notebook, and the data on your SSD will be safe–even if the notebook’s screen doesn’t survive unscathed. Also, unlike hard-disk drives, SSDs don’t generate heat and don’t produce a lot of electromagnetic interference.ConclusionsManufacturers first incorporated SSDs into ultraportable notebooks designed for people working in healthcare, insurance, and similar fields. But as prices drop and storage capacities increase, you can expect manufacturers to begin promoting SSD notebooks to a broader range of users.Indeed, the movement toward the mainstream has already begun. This summer, Dell introduced SSD into the company’s Latitude D630, D830, and D430 business notebooks, which target power business users and travelers. Choosing the SSD option to replace the standard 80GB 5400-rpm hard drive on any of these units adds $540 to its overall price. Toshiba is expected to begin introducing SSDs into select notebooks later this year, too.The Bottom LineUltimately, with an SSD in your notebook, you’ll see somewhat better system responsiveness, and a positive change in the way the system handles drive-intensive tasks such as reading data from and writing data to the drive, coming out of standby mode, and booting up from scratch. If you’re a mobile worker who tends to bump your laptop around a little and who would benefit from performance boosts in those areas, the extra cost of having “SSD inside” might just be worth it.Test Report: Solid-State Drives vs. Hard-Disk Drives–Which Are Faster?The performance boost from SSD varies from notebook to notebook, but using SSD is clearly beneficial for hard-drive-intensive tasks. Enroll Now for Free This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to authentically connect with an increasingly skeptical online audience. 6 min read Free Workshop | August 28: Get Better Engagement and Build Trust With Customers Now Brought to you by PCWorld July 13, 2007last_img read more

Asia Australia solo travel all selling well for TL Network and world

first_imgAsia, Australia, solo travel all selling well for TL Network, and world cruise niche “exploding” Share Tags: Travel Leaders Network Travelweek Group Tuesday, February 26, 2019 center_img TORONTO — TL Network’s forward bookings for 2019 are coming in strong, thanks to a good economy both here and in the U.S., and relatively affordable fares for international flights. And it doesn’t hurt that consumers are in love with travel and want to see as much of the world as they can.TL Network’s latest survey shows that 96% of consumers say they intend to travel in 2019, and 89% intend to spend the same or more on their trips as in previous years.Last year was very good and looking ahead, “we are very encouraged for 2019,” says John Lovell, CTC, President – Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations and Networks, for Travel Leaders Group, the parent organization of TL Network.Destinations like Asia Pacific and Australia and New Zealand are selling especially well, says Lovell. Egypt and Turkey bookings are both bouncing back. And world cruising, with durations up to 180 days, “is exploding. Expedition cruising is also huge. And river cruising continues to grow. I always say, I just wish we could dredge up a few more rivers, it’s selling that well.”Issues with low water levels on Europe’s rivers in 2018 didn’t put a dent in bookings, he added, noting that the river cruise companies have been doing a good job with re-routings and keeping passengers informed.TL Network agencies also saw a “terrific rebound” in Caribbean bookings following the hurricanes in fall 2017.Solo travel is another growth market, with 36% of consumers in the survey saying they intend to take at least one solo trip in 2019.Lovell and other TL Network execs were in Toronto yesterday to brief the trade media.It’s been two years since the formation of TL Network from Vacation.com and other entities and the group is now the largest retail travel agency organization in North America.Last year the company’s Agent Profiler online lead generation tool saw 25% year over year growth in leads channeled to participating Canadian travel advisors resulting in 5,000 leads delivered.More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin CruisesIn 2017 TL Network had some 483 Canadian member advisors on Agent Profiler. By 2018 that number was up to 567. With 5,000 leads for 567 agents, “that’s roughly 10 leads per agent,” says Jeremy Van Kuyk, VP Technology – Travel Leaders Group.TL Network’s site for Canadian members, CanadianTravelAgents.ca (“we don’t sell travel, we sell travel agents,” says Van Kuyk) got 46,000 new consumer users in 2018, and organic traffic from random Google searches was 55% of that total. Organic search traffic driving consumers to CanadianTravelAgents.ca increased 136% year-over-year.Much of the content that’s driving those coveted high SEO rankings come from the information in TL Network agent profiles in the Agent Profiler tool. Agents can upgrade to Agent Profiler 2.0 for $15 per month, says Van Kuyk. Advisors taking advantage of Agent Profiler 2.0’s enhanced features can highlight their specialties and certifications, along with consumer ratings and reviews, and as a result are receiving three times more leads than those using the previous generation of the tool.Christine James, Vice President Canada, TL Network says there are now just shy of 700 TL Network members in Canada, coming in at about 680 agencies. Members are taking advantage of TL Network programs like Distinctive Voyages with 10 premium and luxury cruise lines offering 300+ cruise departures annually, Culinary Collection with 119 culinary themed sailings for 2019 with 11 Preferred Partners, and Amenity Departure Dates.All of these extras are built-in, says James, allowing TL Network agents to be more competitive in the marketplace.For education and training, in 2019 TL Network is introducing a new advisor education and training philosophy focused on learning pathways customized to an advisor’s personal achievement and career advancement goals.The company’s Learning Management System (LMS) now includes 358 individual courses with more than 425 new Canadian users joining the system in 2018. Popular specialist programs include Group Travel, Luxury Travel, Active and Adventure Travel, and Honeymoon and Destination Weddings.More news:  Transat calls Groupe Mach’s latest offer “highly abusive, coercive and misleading”TL Network Canada also has four Regional Conferences on the calendar for 2019, plus 24 Mixers for additional networking and learning opportunities. And this June 2019, the TL Network EDGE conference will take place in Washington, D.C. from June 7 to 10, with more than 2,100 attendees expected.Reaching out to clients, TL Network’s Canadian marketing engagement program has grown to more than 50 partners and during the past year resulted in more than 220 direct mail and email campaigns and over six million partner funded pieces.“We are excited to see significant growth in many areas of TL Network including our direct marketing efforts in Canada,” says James. “Our engagement program provides our advisors with beautifully designed marketing materials to inspire their customers and keep them informed about our latest offerings.”Some 20 – 30% of Canadian traffic through TL Network members is now represented by group bookings, as strong as ever with the popularity of multigenerational travel, notes James.TL Network is also launching a 2019 Select Agent Guide, and for consumers, Select magazine, coming this spring, says Roger E. Block, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Network. The consumer publication is geared to luxury clientele especially who want to see and experience it all. “People don’t want to just see the Pyramids. They want an immersive trip. They want to meet the locals. We work with DMCs in more than 150 countries to itineraries can be totally customized. This is one of the ways we’re trying to help our customers get the most experiences they can.”Clients have so much information at their fingertips, says Lovell. “But ultimately they’re looking for confirmation and validation, and the person they turn to for that is a travel advisor.“At the end of the day, people want that person to hold their hand and walk them through that transaction.” Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more