File this under things I did not think could happen. And perhaps they won’t happen. But they will happen. Alright, you get the drift guys. I woke up this morning to one such instance.
Jet Airways, who are celebrating their 25th year of flying this year, has also been going through a rough patch financially. Indian airfares have not exactly been kind, with IndiGo selling tickets at meagre prices, and throwing flights left, right and centre, causing other airlines to bleed since they’ve lost pricing power. Jet Airways have skipped payments to employees who have been widely reported in the newspapers. They’ve also got some aircraft on the ground which does not seem like them usually and are currently in the process of evaluating a further stake sale in JetPrivilege (they own 49.9%, and Etihad owns the rest through group entities). I’m confident that they are going to continue flying and not shut shop, although what shape the airline takes in the future is best known to the management.
Perhaps some of the obvious ways of solving the cash flow issues they’ve had have not entirely worked out, given banks and other financial institutions have burnt their hands with Kingfisher Airlines back in the day and are still smarting from their loans which vanished in thin air. On the other hand, Jet Airways’ stake sale to Delta has not moved either it seems.
Now, the Times of India is reporting today that Jet Airways have had a first round of discussion with the Tata Group to get them on board. It seems Tata group does not want to walk in for peanuts, and they have sought management control of Jet Airways, requesting a 26 % stake initially and another 26% via an open offer later. The Tatas were the original doyens of Aviation in India, having owned Air India as Tata Airlines before it was taken away from them by the Government and nationalised.
Recently, they’ve become aggressive in the space and launched a budget carrier with Air Asia India, where they recently installed their CEO. They also have control over Vistara, which they are building ground up with Singapore Airlines as India’s finest full-service carrier at the moment.
Adding more fuel to the fire is a Moneycontrol report this morning that Tata Sons are also considering bringing on board Aditya Ghosh, who last used to work at IndiGo, to head their aviation business.
This is all sorts of surprising of course, given that Jet Airways has come so far on their own. I’m sure that this time it is different and that there will be an equity dilution from the Goyal family to get funds into the business. Because Etihad exiting does not help the airline really at this time, but Etihad is in a financial doldrums of their own, so you should fully expect it. However, that a majority stake would be at play is something surprising, and the airline might as well change hands.
It does make sense in some ways, given Tata’s passion for aviation, their vast money reserves and the plain bad timing for Jet Airways. But would it be Jet Airways + Vistara or Jet Airways + Air Asia India or one big airline of all three, I don’t know.
Do you think this is just smoke and mirrors, or something is happening here? I’m all ears to hear if a Jet Airways Stake sale involving the Tata Sons would be a possibility?