New Delhi: With a new management of Jet Airways likely to be in place soon, State Bank of India, the lead lender of the consortium that financed the domestic airline, is hopeful that the crisis at the debt-laden Jet Airways would be resolved this month itself.
"We are looking for such a new management that has got credibility not only in the market but also in the aviation sector. We think it (the new management) can guarantee us that the company will be run well. We are very much hopeful that the issue involved in Jet Airways with SBI would be resolved by March 31 this year." a senior SBI official told Financial Chronicle.
Naresh Goyal, Chairman, currently holds 51 per cent stake in Jet Airways, while Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has a 24 per cent stake. Etihad has reportedly approached SBI to purchase its 24 per cent stake in the airline.
When asked about the current development, the official, however, said, "If Etihad would be allowed to buy a substantial stake, then all the lenders will be readily accept that. We have no issues as long as the company is able to make Jet Airways sustainable and keep it flying."
Lenders to crisis-hit carrier have been working hard for a resolution that has been eluding them for the last five months. They now feel that a collapse of the airline will not be good either for consumers or competition, so a revival scheme would be the most suitable option for all stakeholders. The government is also reportedly in favour of reviving the carrier.
With Jet now flying just about a third of its fleet, defaulting on interest payments and delaying salaries to pilot, SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar along with Aviation Secretary Pradip Singh Kharola and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nripendra Misra had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday.
Elaborating on the Etihad stake purchase issue, Kumar had said, "The dialogue with Etihad is on. It is not that they have conclusively decided that they will go out. But there are certain conditions which they want to be fulfilled and it is nothing but that the airline should be professionally managed and without any interference."
The SBI chief had also said that resolution of a service industry like airline is nearly impossible under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and is the last option. "IBC means that we are grounding the airline. We will keep trying till such time we believe that all hope is lost. But as on date, I can say that not all hope is lost. We have not reached that decision point where we say enough is enough and nothing can be done," Kumar added.
Jet Airways has a debt of over Rs 8,200 crore and needs to make repayments of up to Rs 1,700 crore by the end of this month. In case the airline collapses, 23,000 jobs would be at stake. "It is in the lender's interest, the country's interest, the aviation sector's interest that Jet Airways continues to fly," Kumar had said.