New Delhi: Grounded Jet Airways faces multiple challenges even as lenders act on partner Etihad Airways’ suggestion to find a majority buyer for the airline.
Among the major issues are conversion of lenders’ debt into equity in absence of required direction from banking regulator RBI and clarity over substantial ownership and management control.
“The issue is, by the time all this will happen, it will be too late. The entire leadership team has already gone. The airline board has remained with very basic numbers..there are only three members left,” said a person close to the promoter group.
He doubted if lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI) would be able to find a majority buyer for the airline given its precarious financial health.
“Had Etihad come with the offer to raise its stake to 49 percent, it would have probably been easier for the lenders to find a majority buyer. But Etihad has been insisting that it will remain a minority partner so it is going to be really very difficult,” the source added. The aviation veteran further said that there is no guarantee that Etihad will agree to work with the new majority investor.
“Etihad should have chemistry also with the new investor,” he emphasised. Besides offering just Rs 1,700 crore – a fraction of the required fund of Rs 15,000 crore to revive the crisis-hit airline – Etihad has in its bid proposal put the onus of finding majority buyer on lenders.
The Gulf carrier also wants exemption from giving an open offer in case its stake goes beyond 26 per cent threshold for open offer. It has also sought substantial write-down of Jet’s Rs 8,400 debt. Having run out of cash, Jet Airways suspended its operations on April 17. Subsequent to this, thousands of employees have left the carrier to join rival companies.
Its aircraft are also being gradually de-registered. All three key management executives of the airline, its CEO, CFO and CPO (Chief People Officer), have resigned. Lenders of Jet Airways led by SBI are currently in the process of selling the airline to recover their dues of over Rs 8,400 crore. Private equity firm TPG Capital, Indigo Partners, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Etihad Airways had been shortlisted to submit their bids after they gave their EoIs.
By May 10, the last date for submitting the binding bids, only Etihad had submitted its offer and that too in the eleventh hour. The other two bids for the airline were unsolicited.