India‚Äôs commerce minister said he will meet with a delegation of Middle-Eastern airlines on Jan. 31, lending weight to industry speculation that is close to buying a 24% stake in (India) Ltd.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma says,‚ÄĚ I can‚Äôt speak for them [Etihad officials], but they are meeting me on Jan. 31; then we will talk about it in detail.‚ÄĚ He did not disclose the agenda of the meeting, however.
Earlier in the day, Sharma held bilateral talks with United Arab Emirates Foreign Trade Minister Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid al Qasimi to discuss issues related to trade and investments.
‚ÄúSharma informed that new opportunities have been created by the recent policy reforms in India and invited UAE to invest in various areas, especially in the infrastructures sector,‚ÄĚ says a government statement, released after the closed-door meeting.
The meetings add credibility to reports that the United Arab Emirates carrier is in talks to buy a 24% stake in India‚Äôs second-largest carrier.
A government official was quoted by local media during the day that a deal valued at 16 billion rupees ($297 million) is almost done and that an announcement is expected this week.
Jet Airways executives declined comment.
Indian airlines have been in talks with several airliners since the government last September allowed foreign carriers to buy stakes of up to 49% in India‚Äôs airlines.
Jet Airways recently told the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) that it was in talks with Etihad regarding a potential stake sale.
In a filing to the BSE on Jan. 3, Jet said, ‚ÄúDiscussions have commenced recently pursuant to the liberalized FDI [foreign direct investment] 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.‚ÄĚ