There is a view among close watchers of the turmoil at Jet Airways, grounded since April 17, that the longer the delay in finding a buyer the harder its revivalis going to be. Especially, now that it is grounded.
A consortium of lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI) has sought binding bids from parties interested in buying a controlling stake in the airline by May 10. “This process should have been completed in a week,” says J.N. Gupta, managing director of Stakeholder Advisory Services and former executive director of markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India. “All the involved parties should have been put in a room and a decision thrashed out. The longer they take, the harder will be the revival of Jet,” he says.
It is not unusual for banks to convert loans they have extended into equity. The conversion will immediately give some relief to debtors and reduce interest outgo. That way, debtors can slowly regain health and pay back dues. In the case of the debt-laden Jet, the consortium of lenders was probably influenced by similar ideas.
There were signs of financial troubles at Jet in the second half of 2018. Reports surfaced in August that the airline told its pilots it had no funds to run beyond 60 days—which it denied. The airline had been losing money for over a year. In the first three quarters of FY19 the airline had already made a loss of ₹3,200 crore. That being the case, some wonder whether the banks have made a mistake by taking overJet and deciding to infuse more funds.
Amit Tandon, founder and MD of Institutional Investor Advisory Services,says that banks have overstepped their brief in the Jet crisis. Says Tandon: “Their focus should be on whether they can get their money back or not. Clearly, that didn’t seem to be quiet the reason why some of the public sector banks wanted to lend to Jet.”