Jet Airways is also studying laying off more employees in non-core areas. Photo: Mint
Mumbai: Jet Airways India Ltd. has approached banks for a moratorium on loans and has asked for fresh funds to ease a cash crunch, people with direct knowledge of the matter said, adding to signs the carrier’s troubles are deepening.
The airline has already grounded about a dozen planes as part of a review of its network aimed at reducing unprofitable domestic routes, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. The Mumbai-based carrier is also studying laying off more employees in non-core areas, the person said.
The moves show India’s biggest full-service carrier—unprofitable in nine of the past 11 years— is struggling for survival as two-cent fares in one of the world’s most expensive places to buy jet fuel negate the gains from a surge in domestic passenger numbers. Indian banks, having suffered setbacks from lending previously to failed Kingfisher Airlines, had earlier rebuffed Jet Airways with their reluctance to extend additional loans to the company.
A representative for Jet Airways couldn’t comment immediately.
Jet Airways has the highest portion of short-term debt to total debt compared to its Asian peers at 46%.
For Naresh Goyal-led Jet Airways, it’s critical to raise funds as the airline is battling a depreciating local currency, intense local competition from budget carriers and surging fuel prices. The banks have asked for a detailed action plan from Jet Airways on proposals to sell shares, the people said.
The carrier was one of the first to take off in the early 1990s after India opened up aviation to non-state carriers. Jet Airways has shared little details of a turnaround plan it announced in August, while the stock has plunged 75% this year, shrinking the market value of the company to about $325 million.
Among the proposed steps it announced were the sale of the carrier’s stake in its frequent-flier program, capital infusion, paring of debt and cutting costs by as much as 20 billion rupees over the next two years. While Blackstone Group LP and TPG were reportedly in talks for the stake in the loyalty program, JetPrivilege, the carrier hasn’t given any indication it is anywhere close to a deal.
Jet Airways owns 49.9% of JetPrivilege, with the rest held by Etihad Airways PJSC, which separately owns 24% of the Indian carrier.
Cash and equivalents dwindled to 3.2 billion rupees ($43 million) as of March, from as high as 20.8 billion rupees three years earlier, signalling the urgency to raise capital and tide over any squeeze.
Net debt was at 73.6 billion rupees as of 30 June, 65% of that denominated in dollars, Chief Financial Officer Amit Agarwal said in August. The local currency’s 13% slide against the greenback is making matters worse by threatening to drive up plane financing costs.