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Jet Airways expects to return to profits by middle of FY17

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New Delhi: Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the South Asian carrier in which Etihad Airways PJSC owns a 24% stake, posted a record quarterly loss and forecast it won’t be profitable until the first half of fiscal year 2017. The shares slumped.
India’s biggest publicly traded carrier will implement tough measures to return to profitability and established a major cost-cutting programme, including writing down overvalued non-cash assets and reconfiguring planes, it said.
“There can be no short-term solutions,” chairman Naresh Goyal said in a statement on Tuesday. “The changes required will take time to implement.”
Jet Airways, which has had an annual profit only once in the last seven years, will face intensified competition shortly as local ventures of AirAsia Bhd and Singapore Airlines Ltd aim to start flights this year. The nation’s second-largest carrier by market share yesterday appointed Cramer Ball, an ex-chief executive officer of Air Seychelles, as its new CEO.
The company expects to return to profitability by the middle of the fiscal year ending 31 March 2017, as it implements a turnaround plan that includes increasing ancillary revenue, selling unutilized planes and focusing on narrow-body aircraft, vice president of finance Ravichandran Narayan said on a conference call with analysts on Thursday.
“It is a fact that we are a very highly leveraged company,” Narayan said. “We continue to have a negative net worth situation.” Jet had consolidated debt of $1.77 billion billion at the end of March, while its cash and cash equivalents were just above $200 million, Narayan said.
The company’s net loss widened to Rs.2,150 crore in the quarter ended 31 March from Rs.496 crore in the year-earlier period, it said on Wednesday in a statement. That compared with the Rs.157 crore median loss of four analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Costs for the period rose 29% to Rs.5,930 crore.
“The turnaround will take time and another round of equity infusion by Etihad, to 49%, is likely in the near term,” Kapil Kaul, the South Asia chief executive of the CAPA Centre for Aviation in New Delhi, said in an emailed comment. “Etihad needs to take the Jet turnaround more seriously than what is visible at present.”
Plane reconfiguration
Shares of Mumbai-based Jet Airways fell 8.7% to Rs.245.30 in Mumbai on Wednesday, the biggest drop since 10 June 2013. They have declined 56% in the past year, compared with the 22% gain in the BSE Sensex index. Trading volume on Wednesday was more than double the three-month average.
Jet Airways isn’t alone among Indian carriers to seek an overseas partner. SpiceJet Ltd, a budget carrier, is in very advanced talks with an external investor about a capital infusion, it said on 20 May, as it seeks to return to profit amid heightened competition.
Jet’s Narayan said there is no indication the company will get an equity infusion now, and all funding will be in the form of debt.
Etihad CEO James Hogan and chief financial officer James Rigney attended Jet Airways’ board meeting on Tuesday for the first time, the airline said.
The company announced its latest steps after advisers Seabury APG completed a long-term network and fleet plan.
Jet Airways will reconfigure its Boeing Co. 737 fleet and seek to optimize the seat count in its wide-body fleet, it said.
In the latest quarter, Jet Airways took a charge of Rs.700 crore on its low-cost subsidiary JetLite. The unit has a negative net worth, Jet Airways said.
Fuel costs, the biggest expense for an airline, rose 16% to Rs.1,910 crore at the parent company.
Ball succeeds R. Gopalakrishnan, who resigned as acting CEO in March after Gary Kenneth Toomey resigned in January. Nikos Kardassis, who served two terms as the carrier’s chief executive, resigned in June.

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