Muscat: India's second largest low-fare airline is in talks with private equity funds, an Oman-based sovereign wealth fund (SWF) and foreign airlines as well as an Indian conglomerate for selling a minority stake to fund its expansion plans.
SpiceJet has started fresh rounds of talks, but is yet to finalise any deals, according to a report in an Indian newspaper.
"There are a few Middle-Eastern funds, including Oman Investment Fund, currently talking to the company. In all likelihood, it will be a strategic investor who will do the transaction, with backing from private equity investors," the Indian paper quoted as saying by a person directly involved in the talks. "The deal is not near a closure right now. It will take time." In response to a mail sent by Mint to Oman Investment Fund, its external communication team said, "We have no comment."
S.L. Narayanan, group chief financial officer, Sun Group, the parent company of SpiceJet, did not offer any comment for the story. Experts said investment is critical for SpiceJet as the airline needs financial muscle to compete with Jet Airways and the potential threat from the proposed AirAsia India, which plans to start operations by the end of the year from Chennai.
According to the report, it is not certain when the airline will conclude a deal with fund houses as SpiceJet has been in talks with several airlines and PE firms since September 2012. For instance, Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA), had been in talks with SpiceJet, but these have been shelved.
The development comes amid the resignation of Neil Mills as chief executive officer of SpiceJet. He quit 18 months before his contract was due to end. No successor has been named as yet.
A section of the Indian media had reported that Dubai's Emirates Airline and Singapore-based low-fare airline Tiger Airways Singapore Pte Ltd were in talks with SpiceJet for picking up a minority stake. While Emirates denied any such move, Tiger Airways said it will not comment on market rumours, adding that the airline was exploring "various avenues of business development, including potential inter-line arrangements with other airlines, as regular course of business".
On July 29, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board allowed Jet Airways (India) Ltd to sell a 24 per cent stake in itself to Etihad Airways PJSC for $379 million, subject to conditions.