In what could be a potential final solution to the troubles of debt-laden Jet Airways, State Bank of India (SBI), which leads the consortium of lenders, has invited bids for up to a 75% stake in the airline and said that bidders will have to settle Jet’s existing debt.
The deadline for submitting—expressions of interest for change in control and management of the airline—will end at 6 p.m. on April 10, and is open to individuals—residents of India or foreign nationals, non-resident Indians, or persons of Indian origin. In case of a consortium, it has to have three members, with each member holding at least 15%, according to a notice posted on the SBI Capital Markets website.
Strategic bidders should have a net worth of ₹1,000 crore in the last financial year or a minimum three years of experience in the commercial aviation business to be considered eligible for the bidding process. For financial investors, the limit has been set at ₹2,000 crore as the minimum assets under management.
Last month, the lenders of Jet agreed to a debt resolution plan which would involve them taking majority control in the airline through conversion of debt into equity. As part of the plan, the lenders would provide immediate interim funding support of ₹1,500 crore to Jet Airways, which the company would use partly to clear dues to lessors, vendors, creditors and employees in a phased manner, the company had said. Meanwhile, the lenders would begin the process of sale to new investors, expected to be completed in the June quarter.
As per the arrangement, conversion of debt to equity gave the bank collective a 50.5% stake in the company, making them the single largest shareholder. While Jet promoter and former chairman Naresh Goyal’s stake would be 25.45%, Etihad’s stake would be 11.98%.
Goyal quit the board and his chairman position last month, extending his full support to the resolution plan. In a statement, he said, “I have given all facilitation for implementation of the ‘Resolution Plan’ and signed on the dotted line as required to ensure release of the much needed funds committed by the lenders, in order to secure a sustainable future for Jet Airways.”
Signs of trouble at Jet, one of India’s oldest private airlines, began to surface last year when it was reported that the flier was considering pay cuts, and as the year progressed there was chatter about the Tata group angling for Jet and Etihad upping its stake. Now with a majority of its planes grounded, the future of the airline still hangs in the balance.