Lessors doubt Jet Airways rescue plan, pull out more planes

Jet Airways has posted losses for four quarters, battered by high fuel prices and a weak currency. (Supplied)
Updated 21 February 2019

Lessors doubt Jet Airways rescue plan, pull out more planes

  • The troubles at India’s Jet, which is saddled with a billion dollars in debt, have rekindled memories of Kingfisher Airlines’ collapse in 2012
  • The carrier added it was keeping its lessors informed about efforts to improve its financial situation

SINGAPORE/BENGALURU: International lessors have grounded more Jet Airways planes prior to potentially moving them out of India, as skepticism builds whether a state-led bailout of the carrier can clear their dues on time, sources familiar with the matter said.
The troubles at India’s Jet, which is saddled with a billion dollars in debt, have rekindled memories of Kingfisher Airlines’ collapse in 2012 that forced lessors to write off millions of dollars. Jet has defaulted on loans and has not paid pilots, leasing firms and suppliers for months.
“There’s some talk that the money is going to come but lessors have heard this for too long,” one leasing source said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“We are not convinced with the restructuring plan. This is panning out just like Kingfisher. Banks took control but they never wanted to take a majority stake and run the airline.”
Nine of Jet’s planes have been grounded by lessors, versus the four it reported last month, with AerCap Holdings NV and BOC Aviation Ltd. among those who have pulled out planes, sources told Reuters.
Cross-checks of the Jet fleet by Reuters on FlightRadar24 also show that nine of its planes have stopped flying over the last four weeks. That excludes two more that are at Singapore’s Seletar Airport for, according to sources, maintenance work.
Jet, however, said on Thursday that five planes had been grounded due to non-payment of dues to lessors, as reported to regulators. The carrier added it was keeping its lessors informed about efforts to improve its financial situation.
BOC Aviation and AerCap declined to comment.
“We are waiting to see what the workout plan has in terms of us getting paid. The situation is very dicey,” an executive at another lessor said. “We have to make sure our assets are protected. Indian government and speedy resolutions are not words we normally use in the same sentence.”
Jet, after months of crisis-talks to plug a 85 billion rupee ($1.2 billion) funding hole, agreed a draft plan last week to sell a majority stake to a consortium led by the State Bank of India at 1 rupee, under regulations that permit banks to convert debt to equity in a defaulting firm.
The stake sale will be followed by an equity raising, debt restructuring and the sale and leaseback of jets, but the plan needs approvals from several stakeholders.
Jet shareholders will vote later on Thursday to provide general approvals for a debt-to-equity swap.
The airline has posted losses for four quarters, battered by high fuel prices and a weak currency. Its shares plunged 67 percent in 2018, wiping out $1 billion from its value and making it the second-worst performer among airline stocks globally.
Jet has a fleet of about 123 mainly Boeing planes, including 16-owned aircraft. The rest are leased from many lessors including GE Capital Aviation Services, US-based BBAM and Japan’s SMBC Aviation Capital, sources said, underscoring the need to get lessors on board with the bailout plan.
Jet’s management team, however, was unable to provide a timeline for the receipt of approvals and funds under the bailout plan on a call with analysts last week.
But a senior Boeing executive struck a positive note, saying “once lessors see the money come into their pockets, that’s when the edginess will go away.”
“Right now they are only seeing all this paperwork ... it will take three months for things to settle,” Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president for Asia Pacific and India sales at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said.
Keskar said Jet’s lessors were taking deliveries of new Boeing 737 MAX planes but that they had held back 4-5 of the jets in Seattle pending payment from the Indian carrier.
The Boeing executive, however, was optimistic that the situation would stabilize in the near term.
“The government is interested in making sure that another airline doesn’t go away and another debacle doesn’t happen in a very high-growth country,” Keskar said on the sidelines of the Aero India airshow in Bengaluru.


Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

  • Experts say deal will usher in more economic and development opportunities for the country

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, ACWA power, will set up an LNG-based 3,600 MW plant in Bangladesh after an agreement was signed in Dhaka on Thursday.

The MoU was signed by ACWA Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan and officials from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials told Arab News on Monday.

According to the agreement, ACWA will invest $3 billion in Bangladesh’s energy development sector, of which $2.5 billion will be used to build the power plant while the rest will be spent on an LNG terminal to facilitate fuel supply to the plant. Under the deal, ACWA will also set up a 2 MW solar power plant.

In recent months, both countries have engaged in a series of discussions for investment opportunities in Bangladesh’s industry and energy sectors. 

During the Saudi-Bangladesh investment cooperation meeting in March this year, Dhaka proposed a $35 billion investment plan to a high-powered Saudi delegation led by Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Saudi commerce and investment minister, and Mohammed bin Mezyed Al-Tuwaijri, the Saudi economy and planning minister.

However, officials in Dhaka said that this was the first investment deal to be signed between the two countries.

“We have just inked the MoU for building the LNG-based power plant. Now, ACWA will conduct a feasibility study regarding the location of the plant, which is expected to be completed in the next six months,” Khaled Mahmood, chairman of BPDB, told Arab News.

He added that there are several locations in Moheshkhali, Chottogram and the Mongla port area for the proposed power plant.

“We need to find a suitable location where the drift of the river will be suitable for establishing the LNG plant and we need to also consider the suitability of establishing the transmission lines,” Mahmood said.

“It will be either a JV (Joint Venture) or an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode of investment, which is yet to be determined. But, we are expecting that in next year the investment will start coming here,” Mahmood said.

BPDB expects to complete the set-up process of the power plant within 36 to 42 months.

“We are in close contact with ACWA and focusing on the successful completion of the project within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Abunayyan said that he was optimistic about the new investment deal.

“Bangladesh has been a model for the Muslim world in economic progress. This is our beginning, and our journey and our relationship will last for a long time,” Abunayyan told a gathering after the MoU signing ceremony.

Economists and experts in Bangladesh also welcomed the ACWA investment in the energy development sector.

“This sort of huge and long-term capital investment will create a lot of employment opportunities. On the other hand, it will facilitate other trade negotiations with the Middle Eastern countries, too,” Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Arab News.

She added that Bangladesh needs to weigh the pros and cons before finalizing such contracts so that the country can earn the “maximum benefits” from the investment.

“It will also expedite other big investments in Bangladesh from different countries,” she said.

Another energy economist, Dr. Asadujjaman, said that Bangladesh needs to exercise caution while conducting the feasibility study for such a huge investment.

“We need to address the environmental aspects, opportunity costs and other economic perspectives while working with this type of big investment. Considering the present situation, the country also needs to focus on producing more solar energy,” Dr. Asadujjaman told Arab News.