Home / Companies / News /  SpiceJet resumes flights after fuel supplies restored

Mumbai: SpiceJet Ltd has resumed flights after oil marketing companies started refuelling the company’s aircraft following a token payment of its dues, according to two airline executives.

SpiceJet, India’s second largest low-fare airline, had grounded its flights on Wednesday morning as fuel retailers had stopped supply of jet fuel citing past dues.

“Flights have resumed after we made a token payment to oil marketing companies towards dues," said a senior SpiceJet executive, requesting anonymity.

A senior executive with Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd confirmed the development.

“We have started refuelling SpiceJet. The airline has paid money too," he said.

SpiceJet was on cash-and-carry mode with oil marketing companies where the airline will have to pay upfront to oil companies for buying cash instead of credit.

SpiceJet’s chief operating officer Sanjiv Kapoor said the airline’s dues to oil companies was at 14 crore and the company had never defaulted on payments.

On Wednesday, minister of state Mahesh Sharma told Parliament that the civil aviation ministry is talking to oil companies on the SpiceJet issue and has asked the companies to protect stakeholder’s interest.

On Tuesday, SpiceJet received a temporary reprieve, with the civil aviation ministry asking banks to give it short-term working capital loans aggregating to 600 crore, allowing it to continue to book tickets a little over three months in advance (till the end of March) and asking state-owned oil companies to extend a credit line for jet fuel for two more weeks.

“The public sector oil companies would be requested to give credit for up to 15 days. (The daily off-take of the airlines is about 5 crore. This would amount to about 75 crore. The dues pending is only 14 crore as on 15 December 2014)," the ministry of civil aviation said in a statement on Tuesday.

The fuel bill for SpiceJet for the last fiscal year was 3,200 crore.

The ministry, which announced these relief measures in a late evening statement on Tuesday, also said airport operators would wait for two more weeks for the company to pay them their dues and that it would request the ministry of finance to permit the airline to borrow overseas for working capital as a special case.

The ministry’s statement comes a day after the airline sought state support amid concerns that it could shut down.

The ministry had, through aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), asked SpiceJet, which was raising some of its working capital through advance ticket sales, not to sell tickets more than a month in advance. That restriction came after the airline cancelled around 1,800 flights in December which, along with reports of unpaid salaries, prompted the regulator into moving fast to prevent a repeat of what happened with Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, the debt-laden airline that was grounded in 2012.

While SpiceJet’s promoters have agreed to stand guarantee for loans extended by banks to the airline, the promoters will not be able to infuse further equity into the airline at the moment, according to S.L. Narayanan, group chief financial officer of Sun Group, Spicejet’s parent.

Narayanan said the promoters have been consistently supporting SpiceJet ever since they acquired a controlling interest in late 2010.

“Total loss funding support has been in excess of 800 crore till date. And additionally the promoters have offered shares in SpiceJet as collateral to raise working capital loans from banks from time to time. We sought help from government of India only when we hit a dead end with banks," Narayanan said.

Asked about SpiceJet’s turnaround prospects, Narayanan said “very difficult but not impossible."

“The crude prices have fallen by 40% in the last six months, we have cut capacity, flying more hours per day, weeded out all loss making routes and cut out the flab," he added.

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