Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Jet Airways revival hits new snag as banks push back on funding

Lenders to bankrupt Jet Airways India Ltd. are resisting a court-approved resolution plan, further delaying the former No. 1 private airline’s return to the skies, according to people familiar with the matter and email communications seen by Bloomberg News.

The primary dispute is about whether the new owners of Jet Airways need to pay more money into the pension funds of ex-employees, the people said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Banks, led by State Bank of India, say Jet Airways’ new buyers — Dubai-based businessman Murari Lal Jalan and Florian Fritsch, chairman of London-based Kalrock Capital Management Ltd. — should pay an additional 2.5 billion rupees ($30.1 million) into the retirement kitty, the people said, an ask supported by the email exchanges reviewed by Bloomberg.

The new owners meanwhile have indicated that extra money wasn’t part of the already agreed upon resolution plan and instead must be taken out of the banks’ dues, the people said. All parties are now awaiting fresh guidance from the bankruptcy court due Tuesday, the people said.

A representative for Jet Airways, which also represents the consortium led by Jalan and Fritsch, declined to comment. State Bank of India and Ashish Chhawchharia, the court-appointed professional running the carrier’s insolvency, didn’t immediately respond to messages and phone calls seeking comment.

A revival of Jet Airways, previously majority owned by former billionaire Naresh Goyal, is key to burnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is projecting himself as a market-friendly leader keen to reduce state interference in private enterprise ahead of elections in 2024.

For Jet Airways, a second coming could exemplify how new bankruptcy rules can allow beleaguered carriers to spring back in the South Asian nation, known for its cut-throat aviation market and fare wars that have killed off several high profile players over the years.

06/12/22 Anurag Kotoky and Suvashree Ghosh/Bloomberg/Economic Times

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