As India’s Jet Airways faces a lawsuit over unpaid bills and investigation into missing funds, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has made a conditional offer to raise its investment in the troubled airlines. Once upon a time, Jet Airways was India’s leading private-sector airline. Now, its plagued with debts and financial crunch. And more than 20,000 employees are awaiting their dues. On Friday, adviser SBI Capital Markets announced that it has received a few unsolicited offers. This, it will submit to the State Bank of India-led consortium of lenders for a proposed stake sale.
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However, Etihad spokesperson said the sealed bid is conditional on finding joint investors. “Etihad emphasizes that it cannot be expected to be the sole investor and that amongst other requirements, additional suitable investors would need to provide majority of Jet Airways’ required recapitalization.” However, Etihad has its own share of struggles. As per reports, two European airlines that Etihad had invested in – Alitalia and Air Berlin have filed for bankruptcy protection. Various reports suggest that TPG Capital and Indigo Partners – US private equity companies, and the Indian-run National Investment and Infrastructure Fund had expressed interest in buying stakes.
Jet Airways has a debt of $1.2 billion. This is inclusive of defaulted bank loans, aircraft leases, fuel bills and employee salaries. Since running bankrupt, the airline has grounded a number of its aircraft, reduced services and directed employees to stop work. This has further fueled decline in revenue, operational setbacks and employee grievances. According to information from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Jet Airways was operating only five aircraft before canceling all flights. Lenders including State Bank of India, currently owning 51 per cent of the airline, while Etihad Airways holds 12 per cent; with founder, Naresh Goyal control 25 per cent of the stakes.
It will take investment and cooperation of stakeholders and partners to get the debt-riddled airline in the skies once again.