MUMBAI: The billionaire Hinduja brothers – Britain’s wealthiest people – are considering a bid for India’s grounded Jet Airways, a spokesperson said today, sending shares in the firm soaring almost 7%.
Saddled with debts of more than US$1 billion, Mumbai-based Jet has been in a tailspin for months, defaulting on loans and failing to pay many staff and aircraft leases, forcing it to suspend operations last month.
The firm’s main lender, State Bank of India (SBI), is seeking to sell a majority stake and has received two unsolicited bids and a conditional offer from Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi.
Etihad already owns a 24% share and says it will inject funds to maintain its stake if a majority shareholder can be found.
Indian business dailies reported Wednesday that the Hinduja Group – led by London-based brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja – had held talks with Etihad, separately telling AFP: “Hinduja Group is evaluating the Jet Airways opportunity.”
Shares in Jet, which have almost halved over the past six months, soared 6.97% on the Bombay Stock Exchange Wednesday, a day after rocketing 15% on the back of early reports of the move.
SBI refused to comment on the Hinduja Group’s interest while Etihad was not immediately available for comment.
Thousands of jobs are at risk if Jet goes under and employees protested in New Delhi Tuesday, calling for a government rescue of the airline.
The Hinduja Brothers topped Britain’s annual Sunday Times rich list earlier this month with a fortune of £22.0 billion (US$28.6 billion).
Their sprawling conglomerate includes interests in power, oil and gas, banking, and healthcare.