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|17 January, 2019

Jet Airways' creditors weighing restructuring plan

Airline says includes cash injection, board changes

A Jet Airways plane is parked as other moves to runway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai, India, February 14, 2018.

A Jet Airways plane is parked as other moves to runway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai, India, February 14, 2018.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

BENGALURU/MUMBAI- Jet Airways Ltd's JET.NS lenders are considering a plan to resolve its debt issues, top creditor State Bank of India (SBI) said on Thursday, amid media reports two main shareholders have yet to resolve their differences.

"Lenders are considering a restructuring plan under the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) framework for the resolution of stressed assets that would ensure long-term viability of the company," SBI said.

Jet on Wednesday said a plan involving a cash injection by stakeholders and board changes was under discussion. 

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Jet Chairman Naresh Goyal said in a letter to SBI's chairman that he is willing to invest 7 billion rupees ($98.48 million) in the airline and pledge all his shares but wants to retain a 25 percent stake in the carrier he founded, TV channels reported on Thursday.

However, Etihad Airways, which holds a 24 percent stake, wants Goyal to step down from the board and cut his stake to 22 percent from 51 percent, according to reports.

Etihad told the SBI in a separate letter it was willing to buy more shares in Jet and immediately pump $35 million into the troubled carrier if Goyal does so.

Jet said in a statement on Thursday that Goyal had communicated his position to SBI and that it was under consideration. The airline did not elaborate further.

Goyal did not respond to a Reuters request for immediate comment.

Jet controls more than a sixth of a India's booming aviation market. Yet high fuel taxes, a weak rupee and price competition have squeezed profitability, leaving Jet with $1.13 billion in net debt as at the end of September and defaulting on payments.

The airline owes money to banks, employees, vendors and lessors - some of which are exploring taking back aircraft, sources have told Reuters. 

SBI's executive committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the plan, news channel BTVI reported, citing unidentified sources. It said the restructuring of loans extended by SBI would be subject to Jet finding a strategic partner.

Any resolution plan would require clearance by the central bank, market regulator and the civil aviation ministry, as well as approval from the airline's board and all of its lenders, SBI said.

Ownership and control of Jet must remain in domestic hands, India's civil aviation secretary, R N Choubey, told reporters on Wednesday.

Jet's shares gained 5.8 percent on Thursday after falling 8 percent a day earlier.

($1 = 71.0810 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in Bengaluru and Aditi Shah in Mumbai; editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jason Neely) ((tanvi.mehta@thomsonreuters.com; +91 80 67494756 ; Reuters Messaging: tanvi.mehta.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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