Jet Airways seeks shareholder nod for debt to equity swap

Jet Airways Ltd said yesterday it would seek shareholder approval next month to convert existing debt into equity, part of efforts by the cash-strapped Indian airline to resolve its financing problems.

Jet Airways, saddled with debts of about $1.14bn, has been hit by fierce competition, rupee depreciation and high oil prices.

The company owes money to banks, pilots, vendors and lessors � some of whom are considering taking back aircraft, sources have told Reuters.

The airline will seek a green light from shareholders to convert part or all of its loans into equity at a special meeting on February 21, subject to regulatory approval.

It will also seek permission to convert future loans into equity, the airline said in a regulatory filing.

Jet, which controls a sixth of India’s booming aviation market, will also seek approval to issue new equity and allow its lenders to nominate directors to its board, it said.

The airline plans to increase its share capital to Rs22bn ($309.43mn) from Rs2bn.

The company did not say how much debt it is planning to convert into equity.

Jet shareholder Etihad Airways met with the Indian carrier and State Bank of India earlier in January to secure some form of rescue deal, Reuters reported.

Jet has also said it is talking to lenders to resolve its debt problems and is looking at injecting more cash into the airline and making boardroom changes.

Etihad has hired consultants Alvarez & Marsal to conduct due diligence on the Indian carrier as it weighs increasing its stake in Jet from its current holding of 24%, sources have told Reuters.

The Abu Dhabi carrier can go up to a maximum of 49% according to India’s foreign ownership rules for airlines.

Also, if it breaches the 25% mark it must adhere to strict capital markets rules. Jet Airways last year hired McKinsey to help with cost-cutting efforts and Boston Consulting Group to look at ways to increase the airline’s revenues.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority