By Ajit K DubeyMumbai (Maharashtra) [India], February 8 (ANI): GVK Group Vice Chairman GV Sanjay Reddy on Wednesday dismissed claims made by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in Parliament that the Modi government pressured his company and "hijacked" the Mumbai airport from the conglomerate to hand it over to Adani Group.
Pertinent to mention, Adani Airport Holdings Limited (AAHL) acquired the Mumbai airport from GVK in July 2021.
Speaking to ANI, Reddy said, "As far as GVK is concerned, there was absolutely no pressure on us neither through Gautam Adani nor any other agency for us to sell the airport. We sold the airport due to our own commercial interest and on our own accord."He said "Mumbai Airport was a holding company. We raised some loans in the holding company 10 years ago when we acquired the Bengaluru airport. And, those loans were becoming due. So we had to repay those loans. So a few years ago we started the process of getting some investors into that company. We tied up with three global investors - PSP from Canada, Ardian from Abu Dhabi and NIIF, a Governmnet of India sovereign fund. All these three investors committed to investing and we signed an agreement. We were going ahead with them. But, they have a lot of conditions precedent before they invested."Unfortunately in 2020, Reddy said there was COVID pandemic and for about 3-4 months the airport was completely shut. It very badly affected on the financial perspective of the company and there was uncertainty about when things will come back to normal, he said.
Explaining further Reddy said, "In that scenario, there was a further delay from the investors to fund the money and there was no time horizon we are getting from them. At the same time, the debt was becoming due. Under these circumstances, Gautam Adani approached me and said that he is very interested in Mumbai airport and would like to offer us the same terms that the foreign investors offered us with the condition that he would complete the transaction immediately with no conditions precedent.
Reddy emphasised that handing over Mumbai airport to Adani Airport Holdings was not a distress sale.
Asked about Rahul Gandhi's statement that there was a rule that a company which does not have prior experience in managing an airport cannot be given the contract of running an airport and the Centre amended the rules to help Adani Group, Reddy said, "There was no rule as far as our transactions were concerned, there was not such rule."Reddy further explained how private players were taken onboard for managing airports in India which were previously managed by the government.
In 2003, he said during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government during the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a policy was announced to bring private investment to airports to make them of global standard. Under this policy, the Mumbai and Delhi Airport were put up for tender.
Notably, GVK Group won the tender for Mumbai airport in 2006.
Asked about if Mumbai was the most profitable airport, the GVK Vice Chairman said, Before COVID, Mumbai was a profitable airport. But after COVID we had serious problems. For four months, we had zero revenue. When we transferred it to Adani, I would not say it was profitable. Because we did not have any revenue at that time."Reddy further informed that GVK Group sold the Bengaluru airport 3-4 years ago to Prem Watsa from Canada.
Asked if there was pressure from central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to GVK Group to sell the airport to Adani Group, he said, "There was absolutely no pressure from anybody else. We took the decision primarily in our own interest. Otherwise, we defaulted to the lenders.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday launched a strong attack on the government in the wake of the Hiendenberg-Adani row linking the rise of Adani Group to that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and alleged that "rules were changed" in some sectors to favour the businessman.
Rahul Gandhi, who was the first opposition leader to speak during the debate on motion of thanks to the President's address in the Lok Sabha, said the relationship with Gautam Adani began many years ago when Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister and added that "real magic" started after 2014 and the businessman rose from 609th to second spot globally in the rich list.
The Congress leader said there is a rule that a bidder who does not have prior experience in airports cannot be involved in the development of airports.
"This rule was changed by the Government of India. This rule was changed and Adani was given six airports. After that India's most profitable airport 'Mumbai Airport' was hijacked from GVK using agencies like CBI, ED and was given to Adani by the Government of India," Gandhi said. (ANI)