New Delhi, October 31, 2018: Even as the Tata group is believed to have intensified negotiations for a possible purchase of a stake in troubled airline Jet Airways, the carrier may find a white knight in Delta Air Lines, three people familiar with the development told FE. Although the Atlanta-based airline declined to comment on what it termed “speculation regarding future investments”, it is understood to have made overtures to Jet’s promoter Naresh Goyal. Goyal holds 51% in Jet Airways.
Delta, persons in the know, said would also buy the 24% stake in Jet held by Etihad Airlines. The UAE-based airline bought a minority stake in Jet Airways in 2012 for about $379 million, the first-ever airline stake buy after the government had allowed foreign airlines to buy up to 49% in domestic carriers according to the reports published in financialexpress.com.
However, the Tatas may pick up only Goyal’s 51% stake, sources indicated. For the Tatas, the purchase of Jet Airways would strengthen their position in the Indian market. Currently, they run Vistara with joint venture partner Singapore Airlines and the acquisition of Jet would be strategically a good move. “There is no large market beyond west of Singapore for Singapore Airlines to expand. They have a regional dominance, are fighting with Cathay Pacific, but this deal could give them more share,” said an airline
While FE could not confirm the price offered by Delta for the combined stake held by Goyal and Etihad, it is believed to be at a good premium to the current market price. “In addition to buying the stake, Delta would also infuse capital into the cash-strapped Jet,” persons familiar with the discussions told FE.
In 2017, Jet had entered into an alliance with Delta (along with Air France-KLM) based on the principle of metal neutrality, which means that revenues will be shared between the airlines irrespective of whose aircraft was used, a first in the Indian aviation sector.
Financialexpress.com further added that despite a challenging business environment for airline companies and high crude prices, Delta has turned in profits and is in a strong financial position. Its profit stood at $3.6 bn in 2017 and this year till September, it recorded a profit of $2.99 bn.
Delta is also one of the few airline companies that made a success of its merger with another US carrier Northwest Airlines, which was acquired in 2008, into a formidable airline business.