Etihad Airways PJSC said on Friday it has submitted a binding bid to retain a minority stake in Jet Airways, raising fresh hopes for a revival of the cash-strapped airline. Etihad owns 24% in Jet Airways and, under current rule, can take this up to 49%.
Friday was the last day for submission of sealed bids to SBI Capital Markets Ltd (SBI Caps) for prospective investors for Jet Airways.
Soon after submitting the sole binding bid, Etihad said in a statement that it has been working consistently with key stakeholders in India over the past 15 months to help find a solution that would ensure Jet’s return as a viable and competitive Indian airline, and continues to do so.
“Etihad Airways today confirmed its interest to re-invest in a minority stake in India’s Jet Airways, subject to conditions," it said.
However, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier maintained that it alone cannot revive Jet Airways, which has suspended operations since mid-April due to a paucity of funds.
“Etihad re-emphasizes that it cannot be expected to be the sole investor, and that, among other requirements, additional suitable investors would need to provide the majority of Jet Airways’ required recapitalization," it said.
SBI Caps, which is managing the bidding process, confirmed receiving the sealed bid from Etihad Airways and said it will be submitted to lenders for examination.
“Few unsolicited offers have also been received, which the lenders may deliberate upon subsequently," SBI Caps said in a statement.
Under foreign direct investment (FDI) regulations, a foreign airline can only have up to a 49% stake in an Indian airline, with the majority control resting with an Indian partner.
Mint reported on 16 April that Etihad Airways, India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners were shortlisted to place binding bids for Jet Airways.
NIIF could partner Etihad to pick up a controlling stake in Jet Airways.
In March, Jet’s founder-promoter Naresh Goyal was forced to cede control of Jet Airways after the airline, saddled with more than $1 billion in debt, defaulted on payments to banks and aircraft lessors.
The carrier eventually suspended operations on 17 April.
The sudden grounding of Jet Airways, which was once the largest private domestic airline, forced the Indian government to take steps to address the shortage in flights and minimize disruptions.
The government has since allocated Jet Airways’ slots to other airlines for a period of three months.
Though the financial details of Etihad’s bid were not immediately known, Mint had reported on 22 April that Etihad Airways had asked Jet Airways’ lenders to take an 80% haircut so that it could make a fresh bid.
If Etihad’s offer is accepted, 11 banks will be forced to make sizeable write-offs to their exposure to Jet Airways.