Kingfisher Airlines in Talks With Etihad to Sell Stake

Kingfisher Air Holds Talks With Etihad as It Seeks to Sell Stake
A grounded Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. aircraft, right, stands on the tarmac at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., the Indian carrier that halted flights because of a cash crunch, said Etihad Airways PJSC is among possible investors it’s talking to as it seeks to raise funds though a stake sale.

Discussions are only at the “negotiation stages” and no agreement has been reached with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad or any other airline, the Bangalore-based carrier said in a filing yesterday. It didn’t name any other potential investors or give further details on the talks. Etihad declined to comment.

Kingfisher, which grounded flights in October, jumped by its daily limit of about 5 percent for a second day in Mumbai trading. The Mumbai Mirror newspaper yesterday said Etihad had agreed to buy a 48 percent of the carrier. Kingfisher’s chairman, liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, has been trying to raise capital for more than two years to help ease an 86 billion-rupee ($1.6 billion) debt pile.

Etihad is in due diligence with a “couple” of Indian carriers, Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said last week in an interview. The carrier already has stakes in Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., Aer Lingus Group Plc and Air Berlin Plc.

The airline is in talks to buy as much as 24 percent of Jet Airways (India) Ltd., the nation’s biggest listed carrier, an Indian government official said earlier this month. Jet may raise about 16 billion rupees from the sale, said the official, who declined to be identified citing rules.

Jet yesterday said it had extended a codeshare agreement with Etihad to cover flights to Paris from Abu Dhabi.

Mallya’s Birthday

Etihad agreed to purchase the Kingfisher stake for more than 30 billion rupees, Mirror newspaper reported, citing airlines’ officials it didn’t identify. That’s more than double Kingfisher’s market value. A deal may be announced around Dec. 18, Mallya’s birthday, according to the report.

Kingfisher closed at 16.35 rupees, the highest since Sept. 27. The airline has slumped 22 percent this year.

Kingfisher also needs funds to convince India’s aviation regulator to re-active its license, which was suspended following the service disruptions in October.

India in September ended a ban on local airlines selling stakes to overseas operators to help them raise funds amid industrywide losses. The investments can be as big as 49 percent.

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