India’s Jet Airways holds crisis meeting after lenders reject fund injection

Debt-laden Jet Airways’ operations is down to seven planes flying domestic routes. Above, a grounded pilot awaits news of the lenders’ meeting on Monday, April 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019
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India’s Jet Airways holds crisis meeting after lenders reject fund injection

  • Thousands of passengers have been stranded in recent weeks after the airline canceled international flights because it cannot pay its bills
  • Lenders met for several hours on Monday but failed to agree on how to proceed

MUMBAI: The board of stricken Indian airline Jet Airways could suspend all operations Tuesday after lenders refused to release emergency funds to keep the debt-laden carrier flying, media reports said.
An emergency board meeting was called for Tuesday after the latest blow to the beleaguered company.
Thousands of passengers have been stranded in recent weeks after the airline, which has debts of more than $1 billion, canceled international flights because it cannot pay its bills.
Chief Executive Vinay Dube called the board meeting after lenders led by the State Bank of India failed on Monday to agree to give needed emergency cash.
“The management will seek guidance from the board on the next steps forward,” Dube said in an email to staff late Monday as he announced that the cancelation of international flights was being extended to Thursday.
Indian dailies said suspending all operations was one option open to the board though this could mean Jet would lose its operating license.
Business Standard quoted sources saying the airline had only enough fuel to keep its seven remaining jets running until Tuesday afternoon.
An official from the National Aviation Guild, the union for Jet pilots, said: “The airline is flying seven planes right now. The minimum number to keep its scheduled operations license.”
Jet has been in a tailspin for months. Its fleet has been cut from about 120 in December. It has defaulted on loans and most staff have not been paid for many months.
A consortium of lenders took control of Jet last month, pledging to give $218 million of “immediate funding support” as part of a debt resolution plan.
The lenders met for several hours on Monday but failed to agree on how to proceed.
Later the State Bank of India released a statement saying that the banks were trying to help Jet.
“Cooperation by and support from all the other stakeholders will be the key to the success of the process,” it added.
The SBI-led consortium is trying to find a buyer for Jet, which was until recently India’s second-biggest airline by market share.
A deadline passed Friday for prospective bidders to express an interest in acquiring a 75 percent stake in the carrier.
Etihad Airways, which owns a 24 percent stake, has reportedly submitted an expression of interest to buy a controlling stake.
The SBI was expected to announce a shortlist of prospective bidders later on Tuesday. They would then have until April 30 to submit formal bids.
A collapse of Jet would deal a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-business reputation as he seeks a second term in ongoing national elections.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.