Etihad Faces Investor Challenge on Bond Commitments

(Bloomberg) -- A group of creditors to entities set up to finance affiliates of Etihad Airways said in a letter to the airline they were misled on its commitments to support part-owned carriers, two of which are now insolvent, a person familiar with the matter said.

The investors say they bought bonds issued by EA Partners between 2015 and 2016 after Etihad implied it would back the affiliates including struggling carriers Alitalia and Air Berlin, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because it’s private. The group, represented by law firm Dechert, have sent a letter to Etihad asking to discuss the matter with its management and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Finance, the person said.

A spokesman at Etihad declined to comment on the letter. An external representative for Dechert also declined to comment.

Etihad set up two vehicles, EA Partners I and II, which sold $1.2 billion of securities to raise funds for several airlines in which it owned stakes. Anoa Capital, a brokerage controlled by German businessman Lars Windhorst, helped arrange the deals.

The insolvency of Air Berlin and Alitalia, the two largest investments Etihad had made in Europe, forced EA Partners’ to auction claims linked to the airlines and ultimately failed to attract bids high enough to repay the notes at face value.

Emirates, the flagship airline based in neighboring Dubai, is in talks for a potential acquisition of Etihad, people familiar with the matter said last month. Both airlines initially declined to comment, before later denying that any talks were underway.

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