Indebted Jet Airways likely to get emergency loan

Banks, led by State Bank of India, plan to provide the funds against shares pledged by founder and Chairman Naresh Goyal and partner Etihad Airways PJSC and backed by their guarantees, people in the know of things have said.

Feb 13, 2019 01:02 IST India Infoline News Service

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Jet Airways India Ltd., the beleaguered carrier that’s in the midst of bailout talks with its partner and lenders, is set to get an emergency loan of as much as Rs6bn ($85mn) to help it tide over a cash crunch, according to people familiar with the matter.

Banks, led by State Bank of India, plan to provide the funds against shares pledged by founder and Chairman Naresh Goyal and partner Etihad Airways PJSC and backed by their guarantees, the people said, asking not to be identified before a public announcement. The disclosure is likely to be made after Jet Airways’ extraordinary shareholder meeting scheduled for February 21, one of the people said.

The fund infusion would come as a lifeline for Jet Airways, Asia’s worst-performing airline stock, that has defaulted on interest payments, delayed salaries and grounded multiple aircraft in its struggle to stay afloat. Etihad, Goyal and SBI have been holding talks for weeks over a rescue deal for the carrier that hasn’t seen a profit for nine of the past 11 years in the face of cutthroat competition.

“That’s a good amount, I’d take that as a big positive,” said Mayur Milak, a Mumbai-based analyst at IndiaNivesh Securities Ltd. “Crude has also came down from $85 to $60 and operational metrics have become more favorable. Once you get the money, that definitely adds to the sustainability of operations.”

Representatives for SBI and Jet Airways didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment. Etihad declined to comment. Jet Airways’ shares, which has dropped 73% in the past year, gained 1.4% at Rs224.25 in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Under one proposal, Etihad, which owns 24% of Jet Airways, will raise its stake to almost 44% by boosting capital at Rs150 rupees a share, the people said. Goyal’s stake would fall to about 22% from 51%, and lenders would end up with more than 15% after swapping a part of Jet’s loans to equity, the people said.

A final decision is pending as the plan needs the approval of the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the market regulator, the people said.

Any agreement to avert a collapse of the Mumbai-based airline would help save 23,000 jobs and spare Prime Minister Narendra Modi the embarrassment of a failed business on his watch months before elections.

Jet Airways, which started operations more than two decades ago after India ended a state monopoly in aviation, has piled on debt as low-cost carriers lured fliers away with their cheaper, on-time, no-frills flights. With cost-conscious travelers, India has been a tough market for airlines. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. collapsed earlier this decade while state-owned Air India has survived on repeated bailouts.

Jet Airways’s extraordinary general meeting later this month in Mumbai will seek shareholder approval to increase authorized share capital by issuing equity and preferred shares.

Source: Bloomberg

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