Hinduja Group loses interest in Jet Airways but two suitors still in fray
Photo Credit: Reuters

UK-based Hinduja Group did not submit its interest for Jet Airways Ltd by the Wednesday deadline, a lender that is part of the airline’s committee of creditors told VCCircle, locking shares of the airline in the lower circuit band of 5% at Rs 47.75 on the BSE on Thursday.

On the brighter side, South America-based Synergy Group and New Delhi-headquartered asset reconstruction company Prudent ARC Ltd have put in their expressions of interest, the lender said. 

Now, the binding bids have to be submitted by February 15.

In December, the committee of creditors called for a fresh round of expressions of interest, the decision coming after the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved extending the period for Jet’s insolvency resolution by 90 days.

The NCLT had also directed the creditors to expedite their decision on seeking fresh bids after two new undisclosed investors had shown interest in the grounded airline. By then, Synergy Group was the sole known potential bidder for Jet.

A senior executive at State Bank of India, leader of the 26-member banks’ consortium to Jet, is not too optimistic of the resolution plans so far. “We are yet to see the financial capability and strength of Prudent ARC and Synergy Group,” the person said.

Another SBI official said lenders were hopeful about Hinduja Group submitting an expression of interest but were disappointed that it opted out. 

Foreign bidders will have to seek local partners as Indian regulations allow foreign companies to hold only 49% stake in airlines. Synergy is yet to find its partner under the resolution plan.

Moreover, Prudent ARC could also be rejected by lenders as the bidding entity needs to have minimum Rs 2,000 crore (around $282 million) worth of assets under management.

The Mint newspaper had last year reported that Hinduja Group was keen to buy Jet but wanted itself to be indemnified from the airline’s legal liabilities.

The airline’s debt stands at over Rs 8,230 crore (about $1.16 billion) while the total liability under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) to employees, suppliers and other clients is over Rs 6,400 crore (over $900 million). 

Once the second-largest airline in the country, Jet was grounded on April 18 last year after which the NCLT initiated insolvency proceedings in June on SBI’s plea.

In August, Jet’s insolvency resolution professional received three expressions of interest — from Volcan Investment, which is billionaire Anil Agarwal’s family trust; Panama-based investor Avantulo Group; and Russian fund Treasury RA Creator.

Volcan withdrew a day later and Avantulo wasn’t shortlisted for the next round of bidding, leaving Treasury RA Creator as the only selected entity.

After the initial August deadline, Brazil-headquartered Synergy Group, which owns a majority stake in Colombian carrier Avianca Holdings, showed interest in Jet. The group, controlled by Bolivia-born Germán Efromovich, is engaged in aviation, energy and telecom.

Jet was founded by Naresh Goyal, who is being investigated by government authorities for alleged diversion of funds. It has accumulated losses of more than Rs 13,000 crore ($1.83 billion).

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