Jet plans to free up R600 cr via sale & leaseback of planes

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: May 12 2011, 06:50am hrs
Private carrier Jet Airways will soon do a sale-and-leaseback transaction for 10 Boeing-737 aircraft, freeing up around R600 crore for the airline. While the savings on interest would be insignificant, since it would need to pay rentals on the aircraft, the company could retire a small part of its debt. While the companys total debt is estimated at close to R13,000 crore, the high-cost portion is approximately R3,000 crore. The companys net debt-to-equity for the year to March 2011 is estimated by analysts to be over 1,100%, after the announcement of the companys results for the December 2010 quarter.

According to sources, Jet is in talks with global aircraft leasing companies like GE Capital Aviation Services and the Dublin-based AWAS. The transaction is likely to be concluded in two months. However, this could not be confirmed independently with the company. M Shivkumar, Jets senior vice-president (finance) told FE: Deals like these take time. They do not happen in a fortnight. Jet pays roughly R1,000 crore as interest annually.

The sale-and-leaseback transaction has taken time since Jet was barred from any deals relating to movable and immovable assets, until its tax dispute with Sahara was resolved. Jet acquired the erstwhile Sahara Airlines in 2007, which was later re-branded as JetLite. Recently, the Bombay High Court (HC) asked Jet to pay R478 crore within two weeks to Sahara, including the final installment and interest thereon that Jet has to pay to Sahara for the acquisition.

Sahara has appealed against the order in the HC. It believes an additional R550 crore is due to it since the total acquisition cost should be R2,000 crore and not R1,450 crore given that Jet has defaulted on the payment. A hearing is scheduled for June 14.

Jet is of the view that it can engage in transactions, relating to its assets, even as the Sahara group has moved the court again. Though the case is on and will come up for hearing on June 14, Jet is free to do any business transaction of its movable assets, Janak Dwarkadas, Jets counsel, told FE.