Creditors back plan to get India's Jet Airways flying again; Covid-19 cases are going down


Hindu devotees raise their hands as they pray to Hindu goddess Durga in an alley of a residential area on the first day of Navratri festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Ahmedabad, India. The Covid-19 cases in the country has been getting lesser. - Reuters

New Delhi, Oct 18, 2020 (AFP): Creditors on Saturday night (Oct 17) backed a surprise plan by a consortium to revive Jet Airways 18 months after India's biggest private airline went bankrupt with $1.2 billion in debt.

London investment fund Kalrock Capital and Dubai-based tycoon Murari Lal Jalan proposed the rescue that was "duly approved" by a creditors' committee, Jet said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The statement did not give details of the plan but media reports said they had offered to make a payment of about US$115 million to creditors and equity in the new firm which they wanted to concentrate on international routes.

Creditors, mainly Indian public sector banks, took over Jet in early 2019 but failed to keep it operating as its cash crunch grew. It was finally grounded in April 2019.

On top of its US$1.2 billion debt to the banks, the airline also faces huge claims from 20,000 former staff, airports and suppliers. Total liabilities could top US$4 billion.

Kalrock Capital, founded by German entrepreneur Florian Fritsch, focuses on real estate and venture capital and has a major investment in electric car maker Tesla. Murai Lal Jalan has built up his fortune from mining, paper manufacturing and trading across several countries.

The consortium will need approval from a government tribunal and India's aviation ministry before sealing the deal to purchase the airline which would have to reclaim flight slots since given to other airlines.

The move comes despite the crippling blow dealt to the global aviation industry by the coronavirus pandemic which this year brought international flights to a near standstill.

India is still only allowing a slow resumption on domestic routes and very limited international flights.

India's Covid-19 graph has been sliding downwards over the past few days, as new cases have fallen to below-70,000 per day.

But it was bad investments, financial mismanagement, competition from low-cost carriers, high oil prices and a weak rupee led to the collapse of Jet.

Several former executives are under investigation for money laundering and fraud. Naresh Goyal, who set up the airline in 1992, is accused of financial mismanagement and was last year stopped from taking a flight to London at Mumbai airport.

Meanwhile, India's COVID-19 tally reached 7,494,551 on Sunday even as 61,871 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, said the latest federal health ministry's data, reports Xinhua.

As many as 1,033 deaths since Saturday morning took the death toll to 114,031.

Still there are 783,311 active cases in the country, while 6,597,209 people have been successfully cured and discharged.

For the past two days the number of active Covid-19 cases has fallen below 80,000-mark, the first time in the past one and a half months.

The Indian government's focus has been on ramping up Covid-19 testing facilities across the length and breadth of the country. Till Saturday a total of 94,224,190 Covid-19 tests had been conducted, out of which 970,173 tests were conducted on Saturday alone, revealed the data from the indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Cinema halls, theatres and swimming pools were reopened in the country on Thursday after nearly seven months, amid strict Covid-19 restrictions like social distancing and regular sanitisation drives.

As the pandemic broke out in the country, india remained under a strict 68-day lockdown beginning March 25.
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