Jet Airways' shares nosedive after flights grounded

MUMBAI • Jet Airways shares plunged more than 32 per cent yesterday, hours after the Indian carrier’s final flight landed, following a decision the previous day to ground its entire fleet.

The Mumbai-based carrier is on the edge of bankruptcy and has failed to secure emergency funding from banks, forcing it to suspend all operations late on Wednesday.

Jet’s stock fell to 163.9 rupees on the Bombay Stock Exchange yesterday. It was worth more than four times that a year ago.

The consortium of lenders that controls the airline said yesterday they were focusing on finding a buyer for Jet, which was until recently India’s second-biggest carrier by market share.

“Lenders are reasonably hopeful that the bid process is likely to be successful in determining fair value of the enterprise in a transparent manner,” they said in a statement.

The State Bank of India-led consortium is looking to sell a controlling stake in Jet and has shortlisted four potential buyers, including Etihad Airways, which already owns 24 per cent. The buyers have until May 10 to submit formal bids.

Until then, the carrier’s remaining fleet is grounded, with a final flight from Amritsar to Mumbai landing early yesterday morning.

The collapse of Jet, and the loss of more than 20,000 jobs, would deal a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-business reputation as he seeks a second term in the ongoing national elections.

CUT-THROAT MARKET

We have in the past witnessed many airlines shutting shop and it is time to appreciate that the razor-thin margins which airlines are forced to operate within a competitive environment results in a scenario that encourages unsustainability.

MR ASHWANI LOHANI, chairman of national carrier Air India, on the challenges facing the country’s aviation sector.

Mr Ashwani Lohani, chairman of state carrier Air India – which has been bailed out by the government several times – said Jet’s temporary closure was a setback for India’s aviation sector.

“We have in the past witnessed many airlines shutting shop and it is time to appreciate that the razor-thin margins which airlines are forced to operate with in a competitive environment results in a scenario that encourages unsustainability,” he said in a Facebook post.

Jet, which has debts of more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion), has been in a tailspin for months. It has defaulted on loans and failed to pay many staff since the start of the year.

The carrier cancelled hundreds of flights in recent weeks, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

It was operating just five planes before Wednesday’s grounding, down from 120 last year.

Bad investments, competition from low-cost carriers, high oil prices and a weak rupee contributed to Jet’s downfall, experts said.

Its plight has been compared to that of Kingfisher Airlines, which shut down in 2012, causing thousands of job losses and huge costs to lenders.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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