Too little too late: Jet Airways lenders shortlist 4 suitors.
Mumbai: Etihad Airways PJSC, India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners were shortlisted on Monday to place binding bids for Jet Airways (India) Ltd.
Even then, there is no clarity on the eligibility of founder Naresh Goyal to bid for a stake in the cash-strapped airline.
Two people aware of the ongoing Jet Airways stake sale process said a final decision on Goyal’s eligibility was expected by Tuesday, when the cash-strapped airline’s lenders were also expected to formally declare the names of all eligible bidders. These bidders would be allowed access to Jet Airways’ data room before they can place binding bids by the end of May.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways chief executive Vinay Dube informed employees on Monday that the airline had extended a suspension on international flights by three days to Thursday because it was yet to receive interim funding from lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI).
Potential buyers were allowed to bid for as much as 75% of the carrier till Friday evening. Goyal, who was ousted from the airline in March, was allowed to submit an expression of interest (EoI) on the condition that he bid as part of a consortium with other investors where he would hold a minority stake. But those terms were not met in Goyal’s bid, the people cited earlier said, leading the lenders to take legal opinion before taking a final decision on the eligibility of the bid.
Among the bidders, NIIF had been exempted from submitting an EoI as it is a quasi-sovereign wealth fund and had automatically qualified for the next round, said the two people cited earlier.
The four bidders, including NIIF, would be “conducting independent due diligence of the airline”, the first person said. “However, there is a strong possibility that Etihad, TPG Capital and NIIF may form a consortium to jointly bid at a later stage.”
“The bidding process for orderly sale of equity in Jet Airways is currently being run by SBI Caps and is being vetted by the legal team. The prospective bidders will be shortlisted by SBI Caps shortly,” said a spokesperson for SBI.
“The proposed equity conversion by banks, if any, will be undertaken as a transitory mechanism to facilitate the bidding-cum-sale process,” the spokesperson added.
In March, Goyal was forced to give up control of Jet Airways after the airline, saddled with over $1 billion in debt, defaulted on payments to banks and aircraft lessors. Jet Airways’ operating fleet has dwindled to seven, a fraction of the 119 planes it flew before its first default on 31 December.
In his email to Jet Airways employees, Dube said, “Please note that the current status of our engagement with the lenders and other related matters shall be placed before the board in the meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning, where the management will seek guidance from the board on the next steps forward.”
Jet Airways on Monday met the lenders with a fresh demand for interim funds.
The carrier, which is gasping for fresh funds, may see its operations grounded temporarily if it fails to raise money in the days ahead.
The airline had last week suspended international operations till 15 April.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways pilots on Monday morning gathered in front of the company’s headquarters in Andheri, Mumbai, to protest the delay in disbursement of salaries.
The airline has held back salaries since January to a section of its staff, including pilots, engineers and general managers. In addition, it has deferred March salaries to all its employees, as it continues to battle financial woes.
The National Aviator’s Guild (NAG), a union representing about two-thirds of Jet Airways pilots, on Sunday evening told its members to stop flying from midnight, before rescinding its decision hours later. About 1,100 of the airline’s 1,500 pilots are NAG members.
A senior Jet Airways pilot, who is a member of the NAG board, said that the airline’s management was yet to convey the decisions taken by the lenders during their meeting on Monday.
“We will decide on the next course of action after we meet member pilots of the union at open-house sessions in Mumbai and Delhi. We will then take a decision on whether we will continue flying,” the pilot said on condition of anonymity.
Apart from deferred interest payments to banks, and dues to fuel suppliers and oil marketing companies, Jet Airways has put off lease payment to aircraft lessors, which has resulted in the grounding of most of its fleet.
On Wednesday, Jet Airways shares rose 0.52% to ₹261.80 apiece on the BSE, while the benchmark Sensex rose 0.36% to end the day at 38,905.84 points.