Ray of hope: Etihad Airways submits binding bid for Jet Airways

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Mumbai, New Delhi | Published: May 11, 2019 4:23:46 AM

Says it cannot be sole investor, will need a majority investor as a partner.

The UK-based firm AdiGroup is one of the party from which an unsolicited bid has been received.

A ray of hope emerged for revival of Jet Airways with its minority partner, Etihad Airways submitting a binding bid on Friday to invest in the grounded airline. Friday, which was the last day for submitting the binding bids, did not see offers coming from the three other shortlisted bidders — IndiGo Partners, TPG, and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

However, Etihad’s bid is also conditional in the sense that it has said that it alone cannot revive the airline and needs other investors to provide majority recapitalisation. Etihad currently has a 24% stake in the airline. Even as per the foreign direct investment guidelines for the aviation sector, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad’s stake cannot go beyond 49% in the airline.

Read | Jet Airways crisis: Etihad Airways submits binding bid as submission deadline ends today

“Etihad Airways confirms its interest to reinvest in a minority stake in India’s Jet Airways, subject to conditions. India is one of the fastest-growing air transport markets in the world, and a significant economic partner of the UAE. Etihad has been working consistently with key stakeholders in India over the past 15 months to help find a solution which would ensure Jet’s return as a viable and competitive Indian airline, and continues to do so,” the airline said in a statement.

It added: “Etihad re-emphasises that it cannot be expected to be the sole investor, and that, amongst other requirements, additional suitable investors would need to provide the majority of Jet Airways’ required recapitalisation.”

Confirming that only a single binding bid was received and that is from Etihad, SBI Capital Markets, which is managing the bid process, said in a statement, “Sealed bid from Etihad Airways PJSC has been received and the same will be submitted to lenders for examination. Few unsolicited offers have also been received which the lenders may deliberate upon subsequently.”

The UK-based firm AdiGroup is one of the party from which an unsolicited bid has been received.

As is known, the consortium of lenders headed by SBI had initiated a bank-led resolution plan for revival of Jet Airways and had invited expressions of interest (EoIs) between April 8 and 12.

Jet Airways finally shut shop on April 17 after lenders refused the airline’s request to extend emergency funding to continue operations. Since then Jet has been quickly losing valuable assets like airport slots, aircraft and employees to other carriers. Experts have been pointing out that Jet would cease to remain a lucrative buy for probable investors.

The full-service carrier had a fleet strength of 119 aircraft at the end of December 2018. Around 60 of Jet’s aircraft have been deregistered by its lessors for non-payment of dues for several months. A bulk of these aircraft, including Boeing 737s and ATRs, have been leased out to SpiceJet for operations. It has started operations from the Jet fleet and recently launched business class seats on those planes.

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SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh last month said the airline has signed letters of intent for 28 aircraft and plans to induct around 40. Vistara, too, is looking to induct 6 Boeing 737s to ramp up international operations.

Jet’s landing and parking slots at key airports have also been allotted to rival carriers for an interim period of three months. Jet held around 400 slots at Delhi and Mumbai airports of which more than 200 have been given to other airlines. Over 1,000 Jet’s employees, including pilots, have been hired by SpiceJet, IndiGo and Vistara in the last four weeks. Earlier this week, HDFC put up Jet Airways’ Mumbai office in Godrej BKC on sale for a reserve price of Rs 245 crore.

In another setback, the ministry of corporate affairs on Thursday asked the Serious Fraud Investigation Office to initiate a probe into Jet Airways books. This was after a report filed by the MCA found irregularities in the accounts of the airline. The Enforcement Directorate has also initiated investigations into Etihad Airways’ 2014 investments into Jet Privilege. The lenders are offering to sell 31.2-75% stake in the beleaguered carrier. Jet, which made losses of Rs 3,208 crore in the nine months to December 2018, had a gross debt of over Rs 7,654 crore as on December 2018.

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