Air CargoFinanceNews

Jet extends deadline to land investor

The financially troubled Indian carrier grounded operations in April.

Grounded and heavily indebted Jet Airways, which handled 10 to 15% of cargo emanating from India, again extended a deadline to land a new investor.

The carrier operated about 106 departure and arrival slots daily at Mumbai. In New Delhi, Jet operated with about 79 daily slots. All movements were achieved with passenger aircraft, with all cargo being carried as belly hold.

Jet, in which Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways owns 24%, shut down operations on April 18 after lengthy talks with the carrier’s founder, external investors and Etihad were unsuccessful.

Etihad acquired its holding in Jet in 2013, at a time when the carrier needed financial support. Etihad, which has been a reluctant participant in talks to resolve Jet’s financial woes, had offered to sell its entire stake in Jet for about $58 million.

Following Jet’s shutdown, India’s central government temporarily allocated domestic slots and international rights to other carriers to fill a supply gap. If Jet is able to recover and return to operating the same number of aircraft as before the shutdown, those slots would be returned. If Jet cannot be revived, those carriers operating the carrier’s former slots, will be given preference in permanent slot reallocation.

On Aug. 31, the third deadline for submission of expressions of interest (EOIs), three entities emerged as possible contenders, although one potential suitor has been eliminated.

The sole requirement for qualification as a potential bidder for Jet is a net worth of $140 million. Current shortlisted entities are South America conglomerate Synergy Group and Russian economic development fund RA Treasury. Panama-based investment firm Avantulo Group’s EOI failed to make the list.

The two shortlisted entities are required to sign nondisclosure agreements before gaining access to the bankrupt carrier’s financials as part of the due-diligence process. The shortlisted entities have until Oct. 14 to submit final offers for Jet.

Jet creditors are owed about $4.2 billion, although the carrier’s assets are comprised mostly of real estate and a handful of older owned aircraft. In addition to working capital, a Jet investor would need to order aircraft and negotiate with Indian and foreign regulators on the return of airport slots.

Synergy Group, majority owner of Bogota-based carrier Avianca Holdings, the second-largest airline in Latin America and an Air India code share partner, has expressed interest in taking a majority stake in Jet. While Indian law restricts foreign airline holdings in Indian carriers to 49%, that restriction does not apply to financial investors. And the Indian government is discussing a change in the 49% ceiling.

Synergy most likely would seek to partner with an Indian entity to gain a majority interest, as well as demand a significant reduction in bank debt and a debt-for-equity swap.