Visitor queue to access an Airbus A380-800 aircraft, operated by Etihad Airways, during 14th Dubai Air Show at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai (Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg)

Naresh Goyal Says Etihad Has No Plans To Exit Jet Airways Now 

Jet Airways Ltd. chairman Naresh Goyal on Monday put to rest the speculation about Etihad Airways exiting the carrier and a new investment partner coming on board.

There are no plans to sell stake in Jet Airways for now and all such talks are only speculation, Goyal told reporters on the sidelines of the 25th annual general meeting on Jet Airways in Mumbai. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier is not exiting from his airline, Goyal added when asked whether he was taking on board another investment partner.

When government had allowed up to 49 percent investment in domestic carriers by foreign airlines in 2012, Goyal was the first one to grab this opportunity and managed to sell 24 percent stake in the airline to Etihad for Rs 2,069 crore in April 2013. Goyal was a vocal critic of foreign investment in the aviation space.

Besides the equity investment, the two carriers have forged an extensive code share partnership and Etihad has assisted Jet in raising soft loans from Gulf-based banks.

There have been speculation about both partners looking to part ways, after the government liberalised foreign direct investment in the aviation sector to 100 percent in June 2016. This was provided that the foreign investor is not an airline operator.

Some reports suggested that U.S. carrier Delta Airlines too was in talks with Goyal for a possible stake purchase in the carrier. This gained further currency after the two airlines extended their codeshare partnership early this year. Earlier this year, Jet had also announced expansion of its codeshare with Air France-KLM.

These codeshare arrangements allow Jet passengers access to 34 American cities and 43 European destinations via Jet's European hub in Amsterdam, and 27 cities via Paris through the Air France-KLM pact.

Addressing shareholders, Goyal described fiscal 2017 as a year when Jet Airways operationally “ran as a tight ship”.

He said fiscal prudence and laser-sharp focus on cost and a cautious expansion has ensured that the airline ended every quarter in FY17 in profit, with the March quarter net income being the eighth straight quarter of profitability.

The airline closed the fiscal year 2017 with a consolidated profit of Rs 438 crore on a revenue of Rs 23,407 crore that grew only 2.2 percent.

Goyal also credited his airline’s partnership with Etihad as one of the major reasons for the improved all-round performance which has primarily helped the airline gain on network growth, revenue increase, operational efficiency and cost improvement.