Ajay Singh, JPMorgan begin talks with SEBI on SpiceJet future

In a signal of major changes in the ownership pattern of Indian carrier SpiceJet, potential investors including co-founder Ajay Singh and US-based JPMorgan have begun discussions with the Securities and Exchange Board of India over their investment plan for the cash-strapped airline.

Reports said investors are consulting SEBI about regulations applicable to a listed company in case of fresh infusion of funds by entities other than existing promoters, as also about the change in ownership and management.

Besides, the potential investors are also seeking regulatory guidance about applicability of open offer and takeover code-related norms, as well as about classification of promoter and public shareholders in a listed company, sources added.

The moves assumes significance in the wake of another Indian carrier Jet Airways having faced major regulatory hurdles with SEBI last year over its induction of UAE-based Etihad as a strategic partner with a 24-per cent stake.

While the Jet-Etihad deal was eventually cleared, the case became a regulatory benchmark with regard to applicability of open offer and takeover rules.

Etihad was allowed to be classified as a public shareholder in the company despite having a 24-per cent "strategic" stake that it had purchased from the original promoters - Naresh Goyal and his family (who now own 51 per cent).

It is being anticipated that the investment plan for SpiceJet could involve the complete exit of Kalanithi Maran-led group as promoters of the airline, if not immediately then over a period of time, sources said.

Promoters hold a 53.48 per cent stake in BSE-listed SpiceJet, while major public shareholders include Tata group firm Ewart Investments (1.79 per cent) and Kalpana Singh (1.41 per cent). Retail investors hold 45.69 per cent in the company that has a total market value of Rs1,000 crore.