Lenders to ailing Jet Airways are likely to pick up a substantial stake in the debt-laden airline till a new promoter is found, a top government source said Friday, adding that a new promoter would be on-boarded only in another two to three months. A consortium led by State Bank of India is formulating a resolution plan for Jet Airways, which has a debt burden of more than Rs 8,200 crore and needs to make repayments worth up to Rs 1,700 crore by March-end.
“After the lenders pick up stake in the airline, they will sell their share. But the current promoters of the company have to exit before a new investor can be roped in,” the source said. “In the interim, the lenders will provide comfort to the company,” he added. Banks that are a part of the consortium of Jet’s lenders, are learnt to have asked several of the airline directors including its promoter Naresh Goyal, and his wife Anita Goyal to step down from company’s board.
Earlier this week, government officials and bankers had said that taking the Naresh Goyal-promoted airline through the insolvency process will be the last option and indicated against such a move. Goyal holds 51 per cent stake while Gulf carrier Etihad Airways has 24 per cent shareholding in the airline. Earlier this week, SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar along with Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nripendra Misra apprised Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about the developments at Jet Airways. The airline is flying just about a third of its fleet, defaulting on interest payments, non-payment of amounts outstanding to lessors, and delaying salaries to its employees.
It is learnt that Jet Airways’ aircraft lessors have approached other airlines including budget carrier SpiceJet to lease Jet’s grounded aircraft. SpiceJet is looking to induct more planes after the grounding of 12 of its Boeing 737 MAX planes has caused a capacity crunch. “In order to cater the gap from the reduced fleet size due to grounding of MAX fleet, the company is in discussion with various lessors globally to induct aircraft in its fleet,” SpiceJet said in a filing to the BSE.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday issued a public notice to airports, fuel vendors and various tax departments asking them whether any dues, pertaining to a particular aircraft for which de-registration has been sought, is pending with them.
On account of non-payment of dues to its aircraft lessors, the airline is currently operating with 41 aircraft, compared with 119 in its fleet. Last month, shareholders of Jet Airways approved conversion of loan into shares and other proposals. On February 14, Jet Airways’ board approved a Bank-Led Provisional Resolution Plan (BLPRP), whereby lenders would become largest shareholders in airline. Following approval from the shareholders, part of debt would be converted into 11.4 crore shares at a consideration of Re 1 apiece as per RBI norms.