Lenders to Jet Airways are likely to take a final decision on the future of the airline within the next two weeks as thwy look for a new domoestic investor, before opting for the last option of a bankruptcy filing.
With Etihad Airways willing to invest just enough to maintain its shareholding of 24% and the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) ready to commit only if a new investor enters, the lenders have initiated the search for a third investor, two people familiar with the matter said.
According to the people cited above, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, lenders are yet to receive a formal offer from the Hinduja Group, which had recently expressed interest in investing in the airline. The London-based group has not yet approached lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI), these people said, adding that there is a possibility of the group making an offer in the coming days.
“Lenders have, meanwhile, agreed to take a significant haircut if the situation so warrants in the coming days. Any new investor is expected to seek anywhere between 80% to 90% haircut from the banks,” the first of the two people cited above said.
On 21 May, the Hinduja Group had said that it was considering a bid for Jet Airways, which has been grounded for more than a month. While there have been reports which said that the group had begun discussions with Jet’s existing investor, Etihad, for a joint bid, it is yet to make a formal offer or start the due diligence process as per usual practice.
If all else fails, a final solution could include referring Jet Airways to the National Company Law Tribunal for bankruptcy proceedings. However, under the bankruptcy resolution process, lenders may recover only a fraction of the ₹8,400 crore the airline owes them.
Currently, founder Naresh Goyal holds close to 51% in Jet Airways, while the rest is held by public shareholders, including Etihad. Once banks convert the airline’s debt into equity, Goyal’s stake will reduce from 51% to around 25%, while that of Etihad will fall to 12% from 24%.
“In the new scheme of things, envisaged with the participation of new investors, Goyal’s stake will finally fall to less than 10% which will reduce him to an ordinary shareholder,” said the second person cited above.
Under foreign direct investment regulations, a foreign airline can hold a maximum stake of 49% in an Indian airline, with majority control resting with an Indian partner.
While Etihad has evinced interest in rescuing Jet Airways, it has refused to increase its stake from the current levels after banks convert debt to equity at ₹1 per share. “However, the banks do not want to end up as the controlling shareholder,” said the second person cited above. “They (lenders) will be comfortable with a stake of around 30-35% depending on the final equity infusion by other partners. Meanwhile, NIIF, which, too, has shown interest in investing in Jet, has indicated that it will not be willing to own more than 20% in a revived Jet Airways, with the overall value of its investment not exceeding ₹1,400 crore.”
NIIF’s investment, however, is subject to lenders finding a third partner. Etihad, similarly, has said 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.
Mint reported on 16 April that Etihad, NIIF and private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners had been shortlisted to place binding bids for Jet Airways.
Separately, a group of minority shareholders and frequent flyers of Jet Airways had reached out to SBI Capital Markets Ltd, which is running the bidding process, on 25 April to present a proposal to lenders for reviving the airline.
According to the bidding eligibility conditions, strategic bidders looking to invest in Jet Airways should have a minimum net worth of ₹1,000 crore or at least three years of experience in the aviation sector.
For financial investors, the qualifying conditions are minimum assets under management of ₹2,000 crore or at least ₹1,000 crore in committed funds for investment in Indian firms or assets.