Media reports from India say that lenders to India's financially troubled Jet Airways and the carrier's second-largest shareholder Etihad Airways have approached the Hinduja Group offering a stake in the grounded airline. People close to this development were reported as saying that there are exploratory talks between the three parties.
An Economic Times (ET) report said the Hinduja Group has so far not given a clear commitment about investing in Jet Airways, but began showing interest after Etihad representatives approached SP Hinduja, the elder brother, who heads the group. The senior Hinduja, in turn, put Etihad in touch with Ashok Hinduja, the younger brother, who leads the India business.
No meeting date fixed yet
“The Hinduja Group is non-committal (on Jet Airways), but will keep its options open,” a senior executive told ET. He said the group will meet Etihad executives and Jet’s lenders in the coming days but added that no date has been fixed yet and clarified that no formal meeting or dialogue has taken place yet.
The Hinduja Group operates 10 businesses in sectors such as automotive, oil & speciality chemicals, media, IT, power, healthcare and real estate. It owns Ashok Leyland, India’s second-largest truck maker by sales.
Wealthy Hinduja brothers
The ET report noted that Hindujas have pockets deep enough to revive Jet Airways, which needs upwards of Rs 15,000 crore (US$2.1 billion). The Hinduja brothers - Srichand and GP - recently reclaimed their joint title of Britain’s wealthiest with their £22 billion fortune, according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2019.
In 2001, the Hinduja Group was the only bidder apart from a consortium of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines for Air India, 40% of which was up for sale. The national carrier then operated mostly international flights.
So far, all Hinduja attempts to step into aviation failed
The Hinduja Group has also bid for 26% in Indian Airlines, competing with Videocon International. It had tied up with Lufthansa in a venture called Hinduja Lufthansa Cargo Holding BV. But the initiatives went nowhere and the stake sale in the two state-run airlines did not materialise.
Jet Airways is currently 51% owned by Naresh Goyal. Etihad owns 24% and the rest is with the public. The airline halted all operations on April 17 after running out of cash and failing to raise funds. Its lenders, led by State Bank of India, have been trying to run a bidding process to attract a new investor.
Nol van Fenema