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India's struggling Jet Airways flags bailout options

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Jet Airways India Ltd said it's working with lenders to revamp its 84.1 billion rupees (S$1.6 billion) of debt that may lead to a change in the board of Asia's worst-performing airline.

[MUMBAI] Jet Airways India Ltd said it's working with lenders to revamp its 84.1 billion rupees (S$1.6 billion) of debt that may lead to a change in the board of Asia's worst-performing airline.

The carrier is working on "various options on the debt-equity mix, proportion of equity infusion," the company said in a statement on Wednesday. One option for lenders led by State Bank of India is to seek a 35 billion rupee investment from founder Naresh Goyal and Etihad Airways PJSC, which owns 24 per cent in the company, before they restructure the debt, people with knowledge of the matter said. They asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

Jet Airways, which has accumulated more losses than any other publicly-traded carrier in Asia apart from Pakistan International Airlines Corp., has been in talks with Etihad as well as the Tata Group for a rescue package. Potential investors have sought the removal of Mr Goyal from the board, the people said. The bailout comes at a difficult time for Etihad as it is itself cutting thousands of jobs and shrinking its fleet amid mounting losses.

"The resolution plan is presently under active discussion amongst the stakeholders," the company said in the statement. "We also vehemently deny any discussions or disclosure on our part, with any media concerning the matter."

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Jet Airways had 16.8 billion rupees of cash as of Sept 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with 127 billion rupees at InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which runs IndiGo, India's biggest airline. Jet's shares have dropped 66 per cent in the past year making it Asia's worst performing airline stock.

The company's credit rating was cut to default this month after saying it had missed a payment. The proposed equity infusion may see Etihad's stake in the company increase to 49 per cent, India's BTVI channel reported on Monday.

Jet Airways, India's biggest full-service airline, has failed to post a profit in nine of the past 11 fiscal years as fare wars depressed revenue and turbulent oil prices led to a jump in costs. A failed rescue will spell lost investments and mounting losses for Jet's investors and more soured loans for lenders.

Etihad, which lost US$3.5 billion over two years, last week scrapped orders for 10 Airbus SE A320neo aircraft and revealed plans to cut 50 pilot posts this month. Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas has put the brakes on a costly bid to challenge bigger Gulf rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways, saying he'll focus more on local needs rather than carrying passengers between continents.

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