A private equity fund is pursuing a 10% stake in Eastar Jet (ZE, Seoul Gimpo), according to Reuters. Reportedly, AIP Capital, the aviation asset management arm of 777 Partners is in "talks" to acquire the shareholding.

AIP Capital confirmed to the outlet that discussions were underway and said it would lease five B737-8s to Eastar Jet. The interest marks an abrupt turnaround for the carrier, which only resumed flying in March after a three-year grounding.

Miami-based 777 Partners invests across multiple industrial sectors, including aviation where its core segments include aircraft financing, airlines, and growth enablement, with 777's better-known aviation brands including Flair Airlines, Bonza, Flex Flight, and 347 Green Leasing.

Earlier this year, 777 Partners established AIP Capital, an entity that now has approximately USD10 billion of capital spread across debt and equity in the aviation sector and manages around 30 aircraft with a further sixty-eight B737 MAX aircraft on order. The business focuses on asset management, aircraft acquisitions, and facilitates private credit lines spread across investment grade, high yield and distressed aviation assets. Recently, AIP Capital raised USD230 million from investors to finance the purchase and delivery of seven B737 MAX by the end of 2023.

Reuters notes the deal is expected to close in mid-July. Korean law limits foreign ownership of locally-flagged carriers to 49.99%. The interest from the offshore private equity fund follows a local investment group, VIG Partners, buying Eastar Jet earlier this year in a KRW35 billion won (USD26.5 million) transaction. The deal included VIG agreeing to pump KRW100 billion (USD75.8 million) into the carrier. After that transaction finalised, Eastar Jet quickly regained its air operator's certificate and restarted flights at the end of March.

The ch-aviation fleets module indicates Eastar now operates four aircraft - three B737-800s and a recently procured B737-8. Presently, the airline runs relatively high-frequency flights on the Seoul Gimpo - Jeju sectors and also several daily roundtrip services on the Cheongju - Jeju sector. Recently, President and CEO Cho Joong-seok said he hopes to be operating ten aircraft by the end of the year, with five dedicated to domestic flights and five to international operations. The carrier plans to resume flights to Taipei Taoyuan by the end of 3Q 2023.