Etihad Airways' bid to buy grounded private carrier Jet Airways in partnership with the Hindujas off the bankruptcy court may have hit a hurdle as more airlines may join the fray. The UAE national carrier, a strategic partner holding about 14 per cent stake in the defunct private airline, has reportedly contacted the bankruptcy resolution professional. But, media reports say the Tata group, which has a majority stake in the full-service airline Vistara and budget airline Air Asia India, is also interested in making an offer in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) where the lenders have taken the Jet Airways to for proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
Qatar Airways, the full-service national carrier of Qatar, another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nation, is also interested in Jet Airways, according to industry observers. The much-awarded Middle East airline, however, will need a domestic partner to mount a credible challenge to the Etihad-Hinduja bid.
Meanwhile, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) may soon take a decision on the operating licence of Jet Airways which could affect the resolution process of NCLT, a media report said. The airline's suitors, therefore, are awaiting the DGCA's final word that is likely only after July 16.
After failing to find a buyer for the debt-laden Jet Airways that stopped flying from April 17, the State Bank of India (SBI)-led lenders' consortium instituted the insolvency proceedings on June 20, the report in FirstPost says. On June 25, the resolution professional invited claims from all creditors to the grounded airline.
Estimates say the airline owes more than Rs 8,500 crore to a consortium of 26 banks led by SBI, and over Rs 13,000 crore to the tens of hundreds of vendors, suppliers, and around 23,000 employees. Ashish Chhawchharia of Grant Thornton India is the resolution professional for the airline's bankruptcy proceedings.
Reports say that the Hinduja Group stopped negotiations for buying a stake because of the uncertainty after the case moved to the bankruptcy court. The airline's founder Naresh Goyal and his family still hold about 24 per cent stake in India's first private airline that began flying in mid-1993. Goyal, who stepped down in March as executive chairman of the company under pressure from the creditors, faces an exit ban along with his spouse as a probe is on under the Company Law into any suspected diversion of funds leading to the company's bankruptcy.
Some other former top officials of the airline are also under the exit ban. Some of the creditors to the airline have also moved the NCLT and the petitions are being heard together. A Dutch court declared Jet Airways bankrupt in May and seized a Boeing 777 aircraft on a petition by a creditor.