Mumbai/New Delhi: Synergy Group founder Germán Efromovich met lenders to Jet Airways (India) Ltd in Mumbai in the last two days as part of the South American company’s initial due diligence process to buy a significant stake in the grounded Indian airline, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Efromovich, the 69-year-old Bolivian-born entrepreneur, wanted to understand the operations and finances of Jet Airways and also the situation that led to the grounding of the airline, the person mentioned above said under the condition of anonymity.

“Efromovich, who seems to be on a reconnaissance trip, also wanted to gauge bankers’ interest in revival of the airline (Jet Airways)," the person said, adding that the businessman is slated to meet officials at the civil aviation ministry to understand the future of slots held by Jet Airways at major domestic and international airports.

“Synergy Group is yet to use the data room available to bidders," the person said.

At present, Synergy Group is the only potential bidder for Jet Airways after the disqualification of Russian fund Treasury RA Creator following its failure to provide enough information about itself to the lenders-appointed resolution professional. The Russian fund also did not deposit the mandatory amount required to seek access to the airline’s data.

“The sense we got from the meeting is that Synergy seems to be a credible investor. Moreover, a strategic investor with a background in running an airline is preferable to just a financial investor," the person said, adding that while the timelines for the resolution plan and the process was discussed, the resolution plan itself did not figure in the meetings.

Multiple calls and text messages to Antonio Guizzetti, president of Washington-based Guizzetti and Associates, the legal adviser to Synergy Group on the Jet Airways acquisition, have remained unanswered till the time of going to press.

Efromovich has also been interested in other airlines apart from Jet Airways. This comes against the backdrop of United Airlines launching a management overhaul at Colombia’s Avianca Holdings in May 2019, removing top shareholder Efromovich from controlling the cash-strapped airline, according to a 24 May Reuters report.

United, which then proposed a three-way joint business agreement with Avianca and Panama’s Copa, said the move followed a default by Efromovich’s holding company BRW Aviation on a $456 million loan it made six months ago, according to the report.

Efromovich is interested in buying a stake in the bankrupt Italian flag-carrier Alitalia SpA, according to a 30 June report by Bloomberg.

Jet Airways suspended operations in April because of a severe cash crunch. A consortium of 26 banks led by the State Bank of India has approached the National Company Law Tribunal to recover dues of more than 8,500 crore.

The airline has had negative net worth for long and has run a loss of more than 13,000 crore in the past few years. Its total liabilities amount to more than 15,000 crore. Lenders have been trying to sell the beleaguered airline as a going concern.

Mint reported on 3 September that Synergy Group, one of the three potential investors for Jet Airways, is willing to take a majority stake in the grounded airline if lenders agree to take a deep haircut and convert their debt into equity.

shayan.g@livemint.com


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