Air Canada has emerged as the dark horse in the race to acquire Jet Airways. The Canadian airline, along with Etihad, is among the top contenders for the debt-laden Indian airline.

Heartened by the interest from these foreign carriers, State Bank of India, the lead lender to Jet Airways, on Wednesday extended the deadline for Expression of Interest to April 12.

“The earlier deadline was set for April 10 but some of the international airlines that are interested asked for more time. There are more than two investors who are interested in putting in a bid,” said a top source.

According to another source, Air Canada has sent a written application to the state-run bank seeking an extension.

According to one of the persons cited above, “Since Air Canada is an overseas airline and there is a time difference with India, the airline needs time for due diligence. The lenders have agreed to give an extension.”

Malaysian carrier Air Asia and Tata Sons joint venture Vistara are also understood to be among those who have sought a clarification from lenders. Jet Airways’ current joint venture investor Etihad Airways had also confirmed its interest in bidding for the beleaguered airline.

After April 12, lenders will examine the eligibility of all those who have expressed interest. Thereafter, the eligible bidders will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) after which the company will be given some time to examine the books of the airline. “The qualified bidders will be expected to submit their respective binding bid(s) latest by April 30 subject to the terms set out under the bid document,” SBI Capital Markets said in a notice posted on its website.