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Elham AbolFateh

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Jet Airways shares plunge، rivals race to grab grounded carrier's slots

Thursday 18/April/2019 - 03:42 PM
Sada El Balad
Jet Airways Ltd shares plunged on Thursday، battered by fears about whether the grounded Indian airline would fly again، even as carriers like rival SpiceJet rushed in to plug a supply gap in the wake of their rival’s demise، according to Reuters.

Once India’s largest private airline، Jet halted all flight operations indefinitely on Wednesday evening after lenders led by State Bank of India declined to extend more funds to keep the carrier going.

Investors punished Jet shares on Thursday، driving them down 34 percent in their biggest intraday fall. The company is worth about $260 million now، versus $1.6 billion at its peak in 2005.

The carrier، saddled with roughly $1.2 billion of bank debt، has been teetering for weeks after failing to receive a stop-gap loan of about $217 million from its lenders، as part of a rescue deal agreed in late March.

While lenders are “reasonably hopeful” a bidding process for an up to 75 percent stake in the airline will end successfully، analysts are much more skeptical.

“I think the bidding process is going to fall apart،” said HDFC Securities analyst Madhukar Ladha. “Slots are being given away rapidly، dues are to be repaid to lessors، lenders، staff، and everyday it is not operating، the liability adds up. In the end when you’re sitting across the table with a potential buyer، the buyer doesn’t know what he is buying.”

At its peak، Jet operated over 120 planes and well over 600 daily flights. The airline، which has roughly 16،000 employees، has in recent weeks been forced to cancel hundreds of flights and to halt all flights out of India as funds dried up.

“The best way forward for the survival of Jet Airways is to get the binding bids from potential investors،” Jet’s lenders said on Thursday، adding they are “reasonably hopeful” the bid process will be successful.

Private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners، Indian wealth fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)، and Etihad Airways، which already owns a minority stake in Jet، are in the running، said a source involved in the process.

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