SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar. (Mint)
SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar. (Mint)

SBI wanted to act tough, act fast on Jet Airways: Rajnish Kumar

  • Talks with Etihad Airways, Jet Airways and Naresh Goyal were not easy, says SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar
  • SBI will most likely suggest the name of A.K. Purwar, a former chairman of the bank, as chairman of Jet Airways

Mumbai: Negotations by State Bank of India (SBI)-led lenders’ consortium with Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Etihad Airways PJSC and other stakeholders finally ended in chairman Naresh Goyal resigning from the board of the airline he founded over two-and-a-half decades ago. Talks were not easy, SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

Are you in talks with any investors currently?

SBI Caps is handling the process. We hope to get an investor before 31 May.

Who will take charge as the chairman of Jet Airways after Goyal’s exit?

An independent director will take charge. Most likely we are going to suggest the name of A.K. Purwar, former State Bank of India chairman, for the position. It’s, however, up to the board to decide.

Will the lenders get two seats on the board?

Yes. One will be the chairman’s position and the other will go to a private sector bank with the largest exposure. It could be IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank or Yes Bank.

You were spearheading the whole process on behalf of the lenders. How difficult were the negotiations?

The negotiations were not easy. I can say that. I was driven by only one thing, that we needed to act tough and act fast.

Our approach was focused on preserving the economic value of the airline.

We have signed a binding agreement with both Etihad Airways and Jet Airways to ensure that they don’t come in the way of the sale process.

What happens to the total liabilities of the airline, which is close to 15,000 crore?

We aim to restructure the debt and complete the sale process over the next two months. The new investor will, however, have to take a call on the debt, and put the best value to it.

To read more on the Jet Airways crisis, click here.

How do you ensure that Jet Airways will not go the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code way?

We are confident that Jet Airways has value. It has a fantastic brand value and will not be put under liquidation. The media has been talking about taking the company to NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal), but let me tell you that in the case of airline companies, NCLT does not mean revival but liquidation. And Jet Airways hasn’t reached that state.

Naresh Goyal had been trying hard to delay his exit. How did you manage to pull the plug?

I cannot reveal all my secrets (laughs).

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