Etihad will invest in Jet Airways, but several conditions apply

Etihad said it will extend lease of three slots at London’s Heathrow airports to Jet Airways for 16 years at market rates, subject to the usual terms and conditions. (Reuters)

Mumbai: Etihad Airways PJSC, which owns a 24% stake in Jet Airways (India) Ltd, has set several conditions before its next round of proposed investment in the cash-strapped airline. The infusion of fresh funds, will, however, be subject to approval from the Etihad board of directors.

According to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the Jet-Etihad deal, 15% of the total share capital of Jet Airways loyalty programme, Jet Privilege Pvt. Ltd, pledged by Jet Airways to HSBC as security for a $150 million loan, will have to be made available to Jet Airways.

Etihad has also sought completion of the 4,000 crore interim financing as per terms agreed upon by Etihad, Jet Airways founder and chairman Naresh Goyal and a group of lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI), before it makes a fresh investment in the Mumbai-based carrier.

“As part of the interim financing, lenders shall infuse 750 crore into the company. Etihad will procure funding for the company, either itself, or from an offshore or onshore lender, for an amount equivalent to lender’s financing, i.e., 750 crore, as soon as reasonably possible,” the document said.

This will be subject to obtaining necessary approvals from Etihad Airways board of directors, regulatory clearances, and valid creation of a pledge for not less than 34.9% of the total issued equity share capital of Jet Privilege in favour of the lenders and Etihad “on a pari passu basis”.

A copy of the MoU, dated 8 March 2019, has been reviewed by Mint.

The Gulf-based carrier’s board met in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening to discuss the Jet-Etihad deal, among other things.

Other conditions include issuances undertaken by Goyal and lenders to forego and renounce their pro-rata entitlement of participation in the rights issue, and for Goyal to limit his shareholding to 22%.

Besides, Goyal and Etihad will also need to agree to support the final resolution plan led by the lenders.

A Jet Airways bailout plan proposed by the lenders has already been approved by the Jet Airways board, as well as shareholders. The bailout package proposes to meet a funding gap of nearly 8,500 crore in the airline. The lenders have also received approvals to convert their loans into equity.

The fresh fund infusions and conditions attached to them will require approvals from the civil aviation ministry, Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

Etihad said it will extend lease of three slots at London’s Heathrow airports to Jet Airways for 16 years at market rates, subject to the usual terms and conditions.

Etihad and Goyal will also support Jet Airways in obtaining release of dues from credit card companies and the International Air Transport Association (Iata), besides negotiating with vendors and lessors to ensure an extension of the lease agreement.

“As a minority shareholder, Etihad continues to work constructively with Jet Airways board, management team and other stakeholders,” an Etihad spokesperson said.

Jet Airways and SBI did not respond to emailed queries till the publishing of this story.

Jet Airways is battling cash flow issues due to higher costs and intense competition. This has led it to default on interest payment to lenders and lessors, besides vendors such as airport operators and oil marketing companies. It has also delayed salary payments to a section of staff.

Jet Airways had gross debt of 8,411 crore as of end-September.

On Monday, Jet Airways shares rose 2.04% to 248.05 apiece on the BSE while the benchmark Sensex gained 1.04% to end the day at 37,054.10 points.

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