UPDATE 3-Etihad in final talks to buy India carrier stake

Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:14pm IST

Related Topics

Stocks

   

(Adds Dubai source comments, more details)

* Etihad in talks with India's Jet, Kingfisher

* Kingfisher says to restart operations in phases

* Will not need banks' support - Kingfisher

By Anurag Kotoky and Praveen Menon

NEW DELHI/DUBAI, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Gulf carrier Etihad Airways, seeking to widen operations in India and other Asian markets, is in the final stages of talks to buy part of either Jet Airways or grounded rival Kingfisher Airlines , an Indian government official said on Monday.

A deal, which the official said could be announced by next week, would be the first since the government relaxed ownership rules in September to allow foreign airlines to invest up to 49 percent in a domestic carrier.

"Etihad has not yet decided. They are talking to both," said the official, who has knowledge of the talks but declined to be named as the negotiations are confidential.

The decision is now with the board of Etihad and Abu Dhabi's state-owned investment fund Mubadala, said one Dubai-based source who did not want to be identified as discussions were private.

Indian financial firm Edelweiss is advising Kingfisher. The firm and the airline's management team have met with Etihad several times over the last few days.

Buying into Jet is seen as more lucrative for Etihad as the two carriers already have a code-sharing agreement and could target the market share of state-owned Air India and Dubai-based Emirates Airline, the latter of which dominates routes between India and the Middle East.

But a stake in Kingfisher, which has been grounded after its licences were suspended and whose owner, liquor baron Vijay Mallya, has been looking for an investor for more than a year, would be cheaper.

Jet Airways was set to sign a deal with Etihad valued at around $440 million within six months, a source had confirmed in November.

The Dubai-based source said news leaked on the Jet-Etihad partnership plans, which shot up the stock price, causing the Abu Dhabi carrier to reconsider.

"The deal was almost done with Jet when it was leaked and this upset Etihad," said the source.

Shares in Jet Airways Ltd, the No. 2 Indian carrier, closed 2.4 percent higher on Monday, after rising as much as 4.7 percent to a nearly two-year high, on hopes that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad would strike a deal with it.

Kingfisher shares ended down 5 percent - their daily limit - snapping nine consecutive sessions of gains.

He said Jet and Kingfisher were equal contenders for Etihad's interest now and the Gulf airline may even look at a stake in both, giving it a formidable market presence.

"Entering India in such a scale will block all its competitors," he said.

Indian carriers are beset by stiff competition and high operating costs and have been in talks to sell minority stakes to foreign operators.

"Unbelievable as it might sound, Kingfisher at the moment stands a better chance, but the price has to be right," said Rajan Mehra, an industry expert and the India head of U.S.-based private jet operator Universal Aviation.

"Etihad will be able to have control over the airline. Right now what they want is control," said Mehra, who previously headed Qatar Airways' India operations.

Kingfisher is considering giving up operational control of its overseas flights if a deal goes through, a separate source had said earlier.

The debt-laden carrier said last week it was in talks with Etihad and other investors about taking a stake, while later in the week it capped foreign portfolio investment in the company at 3 percent, carving space for a foreign investor to buy as much as 49 percent in it.

On Monday, Kingfisher said it was looking to restart operations and would arrange funding itself. The carrier said it would discuss a full recapitalisation plan with a small group of bankers.

Kingfisher will need about 4.25 billion rupees ($77.91 million) to restart according to its plan, said Shyamal Acharya, a deputy managing director at State Bank of India, the country's top lender and the lead bank to Kingfisher. ($1 = 54.5500 Indian rupees) (Editing by David Cowell and Hans-Juergen Peters)

FILED UNDER:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Coal Sector

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Border Talks

Border Talks

India names Ajit Doval as special envoy for China border talks.  Full Article 

WTO Deal

WTO Deal

U.S. seeks to step up India trade talks  Full Article 

Plunging Oil Prices

Plunging Oil Prices

Oil price seen falling to $60 if OPEC does not cut output  Full Article 

NBFC Sector

NBFC Sector

Reserve Bank planning more measures for NBFCs.  Full Article 

Auto Sector

Auto Sector

Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors lift 2014 global sales target on China, emerging markets  Full Article 

Raising Money

Raising Money

SpiceJet says in early talks with investors for fresh capital.  Full Article 

Market Eye

Market Eye

Sensex, Nifty rise to record after China, ECB stimulus boosts risk appetite.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage