Etihad eyes minority stake in Jet Airways

Chennai: Etihad Airways has submitted a bid for a stake in Jet Airways, the unit of State Bank of India (SBI) overseeing the sale of the stricken airline has said.

SBI had invited binding bids for a stake in the airline, which is saddled with roughly $1.2 billion in bank debt.

Etihad, which already holds a minority stake in Jet, is interested in re-investing in the airline, subject to certain conditions, a spokesman for the Middle Eastern carrier said, reported the AFP.

However, he added that Etihad “cannot be expected to be the sole investor’ and ‘additional suitable investors would need to provide the majority of Jet Airways’ required recapitalisation”.

Etihad gave no indication whether it was working with any other investors that might take a majority stake in Jet.

Once India’s largest private airline, Jet was crippled by mounting losses as it tried to compete with low-cost rivals IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd.

Jet, which also owes vast sums to its lessors, pilots, fuel suppliers and other parties, stopped all flights from April 17 after its lenders, led by SBI, refused to extend more funds to keep the carrier flying.

Etihad was among four investors that submitted initial bids for the airline last month. The others were private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

SBI has also received two unsolicited, non-binding bids for Jet, the bank’s chairman Rajnish Kumar told reporters, adding it had no plans at this time to drag the airline into a bankruptcy process “(We’ve) made disproportionate efforts to keep Jet flying,” Kumar said.

At its peak, 26-year-old Jet operated over 120 planes and well over 600 daily flights, but is now reduced to a crippling 13 flights.

NT Bureau