India’s SBI set to own 15% of Jet Airways, Etihad 40% – reports

With debts of about $1.14bn, the cash-strapped carrier is seeking a debt-for-equity swap



Jet Airways creditor State Bank of India is likely to own 15 per cent of the airline if the cash-strapped carrier’s plan for a debt-for-equity swap is approved, Indian TV channels reported on Tuesday.

With debts of about $1.14bn, Jet has been hit by fierce competition from other low-cost carriers, a weaker rupee and high oil prices. It owes money to banks, pilots, vendors and lessors, some of whom are considering taking back aircraft, sources have told Reuters.

Jet said on Monday it would seek shareholder approval next month to convert debt into equity, increase its share capital and allow lenders to nominate a director on its board to help resolve its financial problems.

Its lenders, including SBI, could end up owning as much as 30 per cent, while shareholder Etihad Airways could see its stake rise to more than 40 per cent from 24 per cent if it injects more equity in the Indian carrier, TV channels reported.

Read: Abu Dhabi’s Etihad proposes to invest in Jet Airways at 49% discount

The airline’s founder and chairman Naresh Goyal is likely to see his stake cut to below 20 per cent from 51 per cent.

Jet, which controls a sixth of India’s booming aviation market, did not respond to a request comment, while SBI and Etihad also did not reply to emails seeking a response.

Indian banks in 2010 undertook a similar debt for equity swap to try and save Kingfisher Airlines, founded by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, and ended up owning nearly a quarter of the airline, before losing out when it was eventually grounded.

Jet defaulted on a debt payment to a consortium of Indian banks, lead by SBI, this month, prompting a downgrade by ratings agency ICRA. The airline has to make large debt repayments over the next few years, starting with about 17bn rupees ($242m) by the end of March, ICRA said on Jan. 2.

The Economic Times reported on Tuesday that Jet’s lenders want to repossess some planes and have forced the airline to ground five aircraft, including its new fuel-efficient Boeing 737 MAX planes, leading to flight cancellations. “Information regarding the grounding of the Jet Airways’ MAX aircraft and consequent cancellations is factually incorrect,” a Jet Airways spokesman said on Tuesday.

Jet was scheduled to add 11 737 MAX planes to its fleet by March 31, but has taken delivery of only five and will not add more until a resolution plan is agreed, Reuters has reported.