Commerce Minister to visit Abu Dhabi on Feb 17-18

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma assured a visiting high-level delegation from Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways that India's foreign direct investment policy in civil aviation is an "enabling" one and any investment under the policy is welcome.

"We have put in place an enabling policy. Any investments under the policy is welcome," Sharma told Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan in a meeting on Thursday. Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal also attended the meeting.

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways is expected to announce a deal to buy a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways soon. If the deal happens, this will be the first instance of a foreign airlines acquiring a stake in an Indian carrier after the FDI policy on civil aviation was liberalised recently allowing foreign carriers to pick up stake.

The formal process for the proposed FDI deal, however, is yet to begin. "Let them apply to the Government first," Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Saurabh Chandra told the media when asked about a possible time-line for the deal.

Sharma is scheduled to visit Abu Dhabi on February 17-18. While the agenda for his visit is not finalised, it is expected that the visit could give a positive push to the proposed deal between Jet and Etihad.

Earlier this month, Jet Airways informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it was in discussion with Etihad on a potential investment in the Indian airlines company.

"Discussions have commenced recently pursuant to the liberalised FDI Policy which permitted foreign investment in the shares of an Indian airline. The discussions are in progress, but no terms have been firmed up at present. Various structures are being explored by the legal and commercial teams and care being taken to ensure that all the Indian regulatory requirements are fully complied with, " Jet said in its submission to BSE.

(This article was published on January 31, 2013)
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