NEW DELHI: Estranged partners Etihad and Naresh Goyal are learnt to be among the seven entities who have submitted expression of interest (EoI) to buy a stake inJet Airways, which is now left with only six-seven planes operating.
The other five interested bidders are California-based investment firm TPG; Phoenix-based private equity firm Indigo Partners, which owns budget airline Frontier; Redcliffe and Think Equity as a consortium; two individuals together and a senior executive vice president (EVP) of Jet with two others.
The deadline for submitting EoIs to SBI Caps was 6pm on Friday. Goyal’s bid is learnt to have come just before the deadline ended. Despite repeated attempts, comments could not be obtained from Goyal’s team on his submitting the bid.
While SBI did not issue any statement on EoIs, Jet CEO Vinay Dube sent a mail to employees late on Friday night, saying, “The process to seek EoIs ended (Friday) and I have been given to understand that significant interest and credible EoIs have been received. The banks continue to engage with the interested parties and I expect more clarity to emerge in the coming week.”
“Etihad had indicated earlier it wants to increase its 24% stake in Jet to 49% but did not want this to trigger open offer. It wanted an exemption like Ajay Singh had got while re-acquiring SpiceJet from Kalanithi Maran in early 2014. Whether Etihad’s demand has been met by the government is not yet clear,” said sources.
Entities whose EoIs are found eligible, and PSUs, government-promoted funds and quasi-sovereign entities have to submit their bids by April 30. While the entire process will take a few months to reach its logical conclusion, lenders’ refusal to give the promised Rs 1,500-crore emergency funding has now brought Jet to its knees.
The airline will fly only six to seven aircraft over the weekend, up to Monday afternoon. It will be able to operate 40-odd domestic flights using this mix of mainly ATRs and one or two Boeing 737s. All international operations are now suspended till Monday.
A schedule carrier must have at least five aircraft in its fleet after completing a year of service, and that is the mandatory norm 26-year-old Jet will try to meet till Monday afternoon to retain its flying licence when its management will send a fresh SOS to lenders. If they agree to give some funds, Jet may continue flying, else it could well be the end of the road for it anytime after that.
“They flew 11 aircraft on Friday and will operate 6-7 planes till Monday afternoon. We have asked them to ensure complete safety of the aircraft they are operating and minimise passenger inconvenience by informing passengers well in time about cancellations,” aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said on Friday evening after he, DGCA chief B S Bhullar and ministry top officials had a telecom with Jet management.
Officials of the embattled airline told the aviation honchos that they had met lenders on Friday and were asked to come with a reworked plan for getting the emergency funding on Monday. The interim funding was promised nearly two months back and is proving to be life-threateningly elusive.
The DGCA has for the moment cleared Jet’s schedule for operating 57 domestic and 15 international flights on the basis of the airline saying it has 16 aircraft seven
Boeing 777, one Airbus A330 (eight wide body in all), five turboprop ATRs and three Boeing 737s. However, Jet is flying only a fraction of these now with no international and about 40 domestic flights.
DGCA chief Bhullar is taking daily reports from Jet on refunds to passengers who bought tickets of flights that have been cancelled. India has 3,100 daily domestic flights. Jet, which till some years back was the biggest airline in terms of domestic market share, is now accounting for less than 50 of them.