Jet Airways India Ltd. aircraft sit on the tarmac at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India Top Lender Says Liabilities Biggest Hurdle to Jet Air Sale

(Bloomberg) -- The top lender of ailing Jet Airways India Ltd. said the burden of reversing the grounded carrier’s negative net worth before it can fly again is the biggest challenge for any potential investor.

“Liabilities and losses are considerable,” Rajnish Kumar, chairman of State Bank of India, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “All these past liabilities and then, profitably, can they fly in future? These are some of the considerations which are weighing upon the minds of the potential investors.”

Creditors led by State Bank of India have put Jet Airways up for sale after the carrier failed to pay back debt. Once India’s biggest airline by market value, Jet Airways has been a victim of a budget airline boom in the fiercely competitive market in the South Asian nation, where carriers offer base fare of as low as 1 cent to lure first time flyers.

The airline, which stopped all flights last month, has made losses in nine of the past 11 years. Jet Airways has seen lessors taking away its aircraft while rivals start services on routes it previously operated.

India Top Lender Says Liabilities Biggest Hurdle to Jet Air Sale

The deadline for submission of binding bids to take over control and ownership of Jet Airways is May 10, Kumar said. The lenders, to which the airline owes more than $1 billion, have yet to take a call on how much debt will be forgiven, he said.

Jet Airways, the oldest surviving private airline which broke into a monopoly of Air India Ltd., had a fleet of 124 and flew profitable routes like connecting India with London and Toronto. With almost 23,000 jobs at stake, the airline’s woes couldn’t have come at a worse time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s seeking a second term based on his business-friendly image.

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Watch the entire interview here: