12 August 2019: Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s family trust, Volcan Investments, has withdrawn its expression of interest (EoI) for Jet Airways a day after the billionaire expressed his interest in the grounded airline.
“The EoI for Jet by Volcan was exploratory in nature. On further evaluation and considering other priorities, we intend to not pursue this further,” Agarwal said on Monday.
Volcan was one of three players to have shown interest in the debt-ridden airline that is staring at claims worth Rs 25,000 crore. The other two players to have shown interest were Panama-based investment firm Avantulo Group and Russian Fund Treasury RA Creator. The airline did not evince the interest of any strategic player including Etihad Airways that holds 24% in the company.
In an interaction with ET, Agarwal said that while he has stepped back, he wants to encourage other airlines and investors to come forward to bid for Jet. He said his initial interest was driven a lot by his fondness for the airline.
“Jet Airways was the pioneer to open skies in India after Air India, created a world-class airline with the finest team and connected numerous global and domestic destinations. India is among the largest and fastest-growing aviation markets in the world,” he said.
Agarwal said Volcan Investments remains invested in Vedanta, Sterlite Telecommunications and Sterlite Transmission, and will keep looking for investment opportunities. Vedanta will remain in the core, natural resources business.
Agarwal through Volcan has shown a penchant to take risks and the most recent investment was Volcan’s exit from Anglo American in which it had bought a 19% stake in 2017. A year later the family trust had sold part of this stake to Vedanta’s oil and gas arm Cairn India Holdings in a move that was widely criticised by investors of Vedanta. Last month, both Volcan and Cairn exited. “We had bought a stake in Anglo at $11 per share and we exited at $22,” Agarwal said.
The trust had invested close to 15% of the stake buy as part of a consortium which earned close to $4 billion of net gain through its exit.
“I came as an investor at the right time and exited at the right time and in the process, the company has done very well,” said Agarwal adding that during his sojourn as an investor in Anglo American, the mining company was rerated, dropped plans to exit South Africa and became more disciplined. Agarwal maintained that he continues to enjoy good relations with Anglo’s management.
Meanwhile, the two players remaining in the fray have time till September 12 to submit final bids. Naresh Goyal founded Jet Airways has been grounded for close to four months due to the inability to arrange for cash to remain afloat.