The Hinduja group, which has expressed interest in buying a stake in Jet Airways, is learnt to have sought an assurance from the Union government that the investigation linked to the Naresh Goyal-led airline would be fast-tracked so that the potential of its aviation business is not hampered once it decides to invest.
Before striking any deal with Jet, Hindujas want to be sure that they would not be made party to any of the cases linked to siphoning of money during Goyal’s tenure, sources in the know said.
Jet’s transactions are now being investigated by multiple agencies including the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Enforcement Directorate and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).
“Hindujas are concerned about the pending litigations and charges of money siphoning against Goyal.
“They want indemnity against these charges.
“They don’t want the investigation regarding this to spill over and impact the future functioning of the company,” a person aware of a recent meeting that the group had with senior government officials said.
A Hinduja spokesperson, however, denied any such meeting.
Among the other conditions of the Hinduja group for picking up a stake in Jet is that bankers must take a haircut of 80 per cent and that they should help negotiate with operational creditors like aircraft lessors for moratorium on certain immediate payments.
The SFIO, under the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA), is probing if the promoters had siphoned off funds from the airline.
Goyal and his wife Anita were made to step down from the Jet board earlier this year as lenders worked on the airline’s resolution plan.
The ED, meanwhile, is looking into the allegations that foreign investment rules were violated when Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways invested $ 150 million (Rs 1,050 crore), in 2012, for a 50.1 per cent stake in Jet Privilege – the firm that manages the airline’s loyalty and rewards programme.
Last week, Rajnish Kumar, chairman of State Bank of India, had met government officials to update them on the deal.
SBI is the lead banker of a lenders’ consortium which has exposure of more than Rs 8,500 crore to the airline.
It is understood that lenders have given time till June 30 for the resolution process, following which the firm will be taken for insolvency proceedings.
While the interest from Hinduja group is a positive sign for the grounded airline, executives of banks cautioned that there was no certainty of the deal maturing.
“The situation looks to be extremely difficult. The cost of recapitalising Jet is increasing every day.
“Despite grounding operations, the airline has an expenditure of at least Rs 120-130 crore per month where as it is not earning anything.
“While NCLT is not a favoured route, there will be no other option left,” the bank executive said.
At present, simultaneous discussions are underway with government-owned wealth fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund for investing in Jet.
Jet has a liability of around Rs 15,000 crore, including a bank debt of Rs 8,500 crore.
Arindam Majumder & Aneesh Phadnis in New Delhi