May 10, 2019 8:39:01 pm
State Bank of India (SBI) said on Friday it had received two unsolicited, non-binding bids for debt-laden Jet Airways Ltd, but none of the parties it short-listed last month as qualified bidders had so far entered the fray.
Two sources involved in the process said Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways, which owns a minority stake in Jet, might make a bid before Friday’s deadline.
SBI has invited binding bids for a stake in the airline that is saddled with roughly $1.2 billion in bank debt. Once India’s largest private airline, Jet stopped all flights from April 17 after its lenders, led by SBI, refused to extend more funds to keep the carrier flying.
Jet, which also owes vast sums to its lessors, pilots, fuel suppliers and other parties, was crippled by mounting losses as it tried to compete with low-cost rivals. All binding bids are to be submitted by 1800 IST (1230 GMT) on Friday.
“This world lives on hope so there is hope till 6pm,” SBI’s Chairman Rajnish Kumar told reporters, after a news conference about the bank’s results on Friday.
“(We’ve) made disproportionate efforts to keep Jet flying,” Kumar said, adding he expected at least one more bidder to enter the fray. Kumar declined to provide any details on the bidders or on the terms being offered by the interested parties.
Analysts are sceptical the sale process will succeed.
“The fact that there are interested bidders will lead to some hopes for a resolution, but between now and then there are a lot of ifs and buts,” said HDFC Securities analyst Deepak Jasani.
“The process of bidding and winning isn’t so easy,” he said. “Day by day, losses and loans are rising at Jet, the more the process is delayed the more the situation becomes irreparable.”
POTENTIAL ETIHAD OFFER
Last month, a source involved in the process told Reuters the four qualified bidders in the process were private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners, Indian wealth fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), and Etihad.
A senior SBI source and a second source involved said the banks had received an indication that Etihad might, subject to some conditions, make a bid before Friday’s deadline.
Etihad was not immediately reachable for comment.
If a deal fails to materialise, the airline could be dragged into bankruptcy by creditors, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Kumar told media the bids that had been received were “not binding, but serious,” and the bank had no plans at this time to drag the airline into a bankruptcy process.
The SBI announcement comes as Jet’s offices are being vacated at many airports across the country and employee access is being revoked.
“At Kolkata, staff have been asked to remove all personal belongings and at Chennai, boards outside Jet offices have been removed,” a Jet employee told Reuters.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.