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Bankruptcy Court Admits Insolvency Petition Filed by SBI Against Grounded Jet Airways

The insolvency process will allow lenders led by State Bank of India to sell the company as a whole or sell its assets and bring to end weeks of uncertainty over the airline's future.


Updated:June 20, 2019, 9:40 PM IST
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Bankruptcy Court Admits Insolvency Petition Filed by SBI Against Grounded Jet Airways
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Mumbai: Jet Airways on Thursday became the first domestic airliner to go into bankruptcy as the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admitted an insolvency petition filed by the State Bank of India on behalf of 26 lenders, sending its share price soaring a whopping 150% after having plumbed life-lows for many days.

While SBI made a claim of Rs 967 crore from the once largest airline (Rs 505 crore in working capital loans, and an overdraft of Rs 462 crore; apart from a term loan of Rs 1,292 crore), it owes over Rs 8,500 crore to 25 other financial creditors and over Rs 13,000 crore to hundreds of vendors and the 23,000-odd employees.

The airline formally stopped flying on April 17 after being on the verge since late last year and banks voted for bankruptcy on June 17.

The NCLT tribunal comprising VP Singh and Ravikumar Duraisamy set a 90-day deadline to the resolution professional — Ashish Chhauchharia of Grant Thornton — to conclude the resolution process, even though the bankruptcy law allows 180 days for the same, saying "the matter is of national importance".

The bench also instructed the resolution professional to file fortnightly progress report and submit the first such report on July 5 when it will begin to hear the matter again.

Meanwhile, the tribunal rejected an intervention plea sought by a Dutch trustee of two of its vendors in Amsterdam, saying the Dutch court had no jurisdiction to order bankruptcy of Jet Airways. The two Dutch logistics vendors sought the tribunal's nod to make an intervention petition on Tuesday.

It can be noted that two vendors of Jet had confiscated a passenger plane at the Amsterdam airport late in March to recover their dues and a local had in May ordered bankruptcy process against Jet and had appointed Rocco Mulder as the administrator for the same.

Significantly, the tribunal also rejected the bankruptcy pleas filed by two operational creditors—Shaman Wheels and Gaggar Enterprises--who claimed Rs 8.74 crore and Rs 53 lakh respectively from Jet. They were the first to take the airline for bankruptcy on June 10.

Rejecting their pleas, the tribunal said since Section 7 of the IBC has already been admitted today, their petitions cannot be entertained, but added the petitioners are free to approach the RP.

Meanwhile, creating a history of sorts, Jet Airways stocks rallied by a whopping 150% intra-day ahead of the bankruptcy plea admission. This is the highest intra-day swing in any stock so far, according to data from the exchanges.

The lenders, who had been owning the airline since March 25, had on June 17 decided to take the company to NCLT as they could not find a buyer. Even the only preliminary bid from Etihad-Hinduja consortium has reportedly wanted the banks to take 90%-95% cut and also exemptions from open offer norms of the SEBI, which would not have been possible under an outright sale.

Jet owes over Rs 3,000 crore to its 23,000 employees who have not been paid since March and some of them like engineers and pilots were getting part salaries since last December.

The NCLT is yet to admit a plea by its engineers and pilots’ union seeking them to be made parties to the case. The company also owes over Rs 10,000 crore to aircraft vendors/lessors and has negative networth and accumulated losses of over Rs 13,000 crore.

The nascent bankruptcy process has been fraught with inordinate delays with only a fraction of the cases have been resolved within the timeline, while the asset in on the books of the once the largest airliner are just fraction of its dues, which run into over Rs 36,000 crore.

While its liabilities and debt are over Rs 36,000 crore, the only key assets are its two Heathrow airport slots, which is majority-owned by Etihad and 49.9% stake in its loyalty programme called JPMiles.

Also, most of its domestic airport slots have been given away to other airlines by the government and so are some of its slots at some key international airports.

On the aeroplane assets side, Jet had only 16 on its book as the rest of its 123 fleet were on lease and most of them have been de-registered and taken away by the foreign lessors already. These 16 planes are said to be valued at Rs 5,000 crore.

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