Govt Urged Banks to Infuse Funds To Rescue Ailing Jet Airways

The finance ministry has in the past year sought regular updates from the banks, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), on Jet’s financial health, the people said.

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Naresh Goyal, Jet Airways,

The Government of India has finally stepped into Jet Airways issue by asking banks to infuse funds into the ailing airline even as Abu Dhabi's Etihad, which holds 24 per cent in the private carrier, is reportedly looking for a buyer to sell its stake.

The government has asked state-run banks to rescue privately held Jet Airways without pushing it into bankruptcy, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to avert thousands of job losses weeks before a general election, this was quoted in a reupted news wire.

The finance ministry has in the past year sought regular updates from the banks, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), on Jet’s financial health, the people said.

In recent months, the banks have provided weekly updates about a revival plan and also sought government advice.

“Top officials at the finance ministry seek regular updates on the issue,” said an official at one of Jet’s lenders, who did not want to be identified as discussions are private.

Details of the discussion between the finance ministry and bankers on bailing out Jet have not been previously reported.

The developments came on a day there was a strong buzz that Etihad has offered to exit the airline and has proposed a price of Rs 150 per share. The Abu Dhabi-based airline is understood to have asked lenders led by the SBI to buy its stake.

The lenders were scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday evening where they were expected to discuss the present status of the resolution plan and whether fresh funds can be infused into the airline. Bank officials were, however, unavailable for comment.

An immediate fund infusion is crucial to Jet Airways, with several of its aircraft being grounded resulting in flight cancellations. The proposed resolution plan is yet to materialise with Etihad not yet infusing Rs 750 crore because of differences over the equity structure and the role of founder Naresh Goyal.

New Delhi has urged state-run banks to convert debt into equity and take a stake in Jet in a rare move in India to use taxpayer money to save a struggling private-sector company from bankruptcy.

The two people plus one more source, however, said this would be “transitory” and lenders could sell the stakes once Jet revives.

The government has also nudged its 49 per cent-owned National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) — created to invest in stalled and new infrastructure projects — to buy a stake in Jet, a separate government source said.

Saddled with more than $1 billion of debt, Jet is struggling to stay aloft. It has delayed payments to banks, suppliers, employees and aircraft lessors — some of which have begun terminating lease deals.

The world’s biggest democracy is gearing up for an election next month and its booming aviation sector, which employs close to a million people, has been one of the job-creation success stories that Modi can point to as he seeks a second term.

It is crucial for India that Jet revives as the fall of its second-largest airline could have “disastrous consequences for the investment climate” in the sector, a government official .

The official is concerned that if Jet collapses it could drive up airfare in a fast-growing market, wiping out efforts to bring low-cost air travel to India’s hinterland.

A chaotic end could also make it more difficult for the government to sell a stake in Air India.

Jet Airways