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Modi govt asked Tata to explore buying stake in Jet, rescue airline: Report

Tata Sons in talks with government about potential haircut to state-run banks on Jet's loans

Anurag Kotoky & Bhuma Shrivastava | Bloomberg 

Jet's unit costs increased 8.7 per cent while its unit revenue declined 3.9 per cent

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has sought Sons Ltd's help to rescue struggling India Ltd, people familiar with the matter said.

Sons is in talks with the government about a potential haircut to state-run banks on Jet's loans while Airports Authority of India may forego some of its dues, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. The Sons' board is due to deliberate on the matter on Friday, the people said.

Tata spokesman declined to comment while aviation ministry spokesman did not answer multiple calls and a text message sent to his mobile phone.

Any investment by will catapult the group to the top league of Indian aviation, dominated by budget carrier IndiGo, while providing a lifeline to Jet Airways, which is falling behind on payments to lessors and employees. A deal that prevents the airline from going bust will save Modi's administration, which last month had to overthrow the board of an infrastructure financier that was missing payments, the embarrassment of staring at business meltdown ahead of a general election due early next year.

The Economic Times earlier today reported that Tata is weighing a potential all-stock merger of with its own local venture with Singapore Airlines Ltd. Jet in a statement to the stock exchange, said the report was speculative.

A deal with Jet Airways, in which Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways PJSC owns a 24 per cent stake, will give Tata Group access to some lucrative assets in the aviation business -- landing and parking slots in airports from Bangkok to Amsterdam, a large fleet of aircraft, and an established domestic network.

The potential structure of the deal has not been finalised, the people said. One of the options is to merge with Vistara, an airline venture Tata runs with Singapore Airlines, one person said. However, difference in fleet and brand identity could mean two brands continuing separately, at least for now, the person said.

Tata Sons also runs a local low-cost airline with Malaysia's AirAsia Group Bhd. The two existing Tata-operated airlines have a combined market share 8.2 per cent in September, compared with Jet's 15.8 per cent.

First Published: Thu, November 15 2018. 20:14 IST