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Ailing Jet Airways to fly 40 more aircraft by April end

Jet Airways' management on Tuesday informed the Civil Aviation Ministry that it would fly 40 more aircraft by April end and also assured that it would not ground any more aircraft, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said.

"By Monday or Tuesday, Jet and the lessors should come into an agreement on getting back the grounded planes. By the end of April, Jet would be able to fly 40 more aircraft. As on today, Jet is flying 35 aircraft," Kharola said after meeting with the Jet management including representatives of the State Bank of India (SBI).

The meeting took place post the management takeover by the SBI and its subsequent Rs 1,500 crore capital infusion for emergency funding on working capital needs.

A total of 75 aircraft is envisaged by April end which is around 80 percent of the Jet's total aircraft previously, he said.

Elaborating on the operational part, Kharola said the financial part of the problem at the airline are being handled by the lenders led by the SBI and the Ministry is only looking at the passenger safety aspects so that they don't have to face any hardship.

He also said the government is also keeping a close watch on the airfares and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has suggested to the airlines not to resort to predatory pricing.

On Monday, Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal stepped down and the SBI-led management took over the daily operations and cash flow.

With Goyal's exit and the SBI leading a consortium of banks to take charge of the interim committee, Rs 1,500 crore was infused as emergency funding by the lenders to look at immediate issues.

Jet Airways has been struggling with cash flows for the past six months because of rising fuel costs and intense competition. It has even delayed payment to lessors, airport operators and oil marketing companies besides a part of its workforce to keep the company running.

As many as 40 of its aircraft were grounded due to inability to pay rentals. Its pilots and certain sections of the employees have been without pay for some months, leading the pilots to issue an ultimatum on salary payment to the erstwhile management.

The airline owes Rs 8,000 crore to the SBI-led lender's consortium.

SBI expects Jet to find a new financial investor by the first quarter of next fiscal.

Indian tax officials to auction Nirav Modi's art collection today, aims to fetch up to Rs 50 crore

Indian tax officials will auction 68 modern Indian art paintings, including works by Raja Ravi Varma and VS Gaitonde, that were once part of fugitive jeweler Nirav Modi's collection and have been seized by the government.

This would be the first of its kind of auction in a country where tax authorities have usually auctioned property, gold and luxury items, but not art.

The book value of 68 paintings is Rs 57.72 crore and the three-day auction of rare oil paintings is slated to start from today in Mumbai. The tax authorities are expected to raise between Rs 30 crores to Rs 50 crores ($4.4 million-$7.3 million).

Last week, the special court in Mumbai allowed the Income Tax (IT) department to auction the artworks which were attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as part of its probe to recover dues of Rs 95.91 crore from Nirav Modi, the prime accused in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB scam.

The agency, which has seized 173 paintings owned by Nirav Modi and his shell firm Camelot Enterprises, has appointed professional auction house Saffronart for this auction.

On Monday, the fugitive diamantaire's firm moved the Bombay High Court challenging the decision of a special court to allow the auction of the artworks belonging to the jeweler. They have also sent a legal notice to the revenue department against the three-day auction calling it unlawful.

Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal steps down, banks to infuse Rs 1,500 crore to rescue airline

Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal have stepped down from the board of Jet Airways after a board meeting was held on Monday.

The airline's CEO Vinay Dube will continue in his position and has been tasked with guiding the company out of the crisis situation.

After the board meeting, Jet Airways informed stock exchanges that promoters of the airline, Naresh Goyal and Anita Goyal, and one nominee of Etihad Airways PJSC have stepped down from the board.

"Resignation by Naresh Goyal, Anita Goyal, and Kevin Knight, as
directors of the company, and induction of two nominee directors of lenders. Naresh Goyal will also cease to be the chairman of the Company," the statement said.

The airline will also receive immediate funding of up to Rs 1,500 crore by lenders.

"Immediate funding support of up to Rs 1,500 crore by lenders by way of issue of appropriate debt instrument against the security of its assets which will restore normalcy to Company's level of operations," it said.

Soon after Goyal stepped down from the airline's board, Jet's stocks jumped over 15 percent. This is the biggest gain for the airline since January 14.

The airline's stocks were trading at over Rs 261/share from approximately Rs 233/share before the announcement.

Etihad's stakes in the company will be halved from 24 percent to 12 percent while Goyal's stake will be reduced to 25.5 percent from the existing 51 percent.

The decision paves the way for lenders, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), to invoke some of Goyal's shareholding and rescue the airline on an immediate basis.

It is likely that the lenders will take over more than 50 percent of the airline's stake and convert its debt into shares.

This marks the road to recovery for the airline but experts indicated that there is a long way to go before the airline can recuperate from its losses.

Experts also made it clear that the airline needs a swift capital infusion to stay afloat.

At present, Jet Airways is operating with just 41 planes out of its fleet of 119 planes after failing to repay rentals.

The airline is also on the verge of losing hundreds of pilots who are on the lookout for new opportunities after Jet failed to pay their salaries since December.

Unlike Vijay Mallya, Probe Agency Hopes For Quick Nirav Modi Extradition

Investigation agencies are confident that there will be no delay in getting fugitive businessman Nirav Modi extradited to India because they have provided UK authorities with all the documents required and plugged every loophole that can be exploited by the defense counsel. Sources told that their ongoing efforts to extradite another fugitive business magnate - Vijay Mallya - helped familiarise them with the European country's extradition procedure.

"It was because of the evidence shared by the CBI and ED with the UK that the court got to know the full extent of the crime, and denied bail to Nirav Modi".

Nirav Modi, accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs. 13,000 crores, has been lodged at Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth in London. He will remain there until March 29, when his case comes up for hearing again.

However, sources said India is undecided about sending a joint team of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate for the March 29 hearing because they are yet to receive a request for assistance in the case. The probe agencies are now piecing together evidence against other accused in the case, including Nirav Modi's brother Nishal and his sister Purvi, who is also believed to be holed up in London. They are also taking steps to extradite his uncle, Mehul Chowksi, from Antigua.

Meanwhile, a related case against Nirav Modi will come up for hearing in a Mumbai court designated to hear money laundering cases on Friday. The Enforcement Directorate is confident that the developments in the UK will help get him branded as a "fugitive economic offender".

Nirav Modi's arrest came days after a London court issued an arrest warrant against him in response to a request by the Enforcement Directorate for his extradition in a money laundering case. He and Mehul Choksi had both left India before the fraud came to light in January 2018.

The 48-year-old fugitive businessman's case once again hit the limelight when a reporter of British newspaper The Telegraph changed upon him on a London street earlier this month. He refused to answer questions posed by the journalist.

Anil Ambani's RCom stocks jump after Mukesh Ambani bails him out on Ericsson dues

Shares of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) were locked in the upper circuit on Tuesday after his elder brother Mukesh Ambani helped pay off the debt owed to Sweden's Ericsson.

Telecom equipment maker Ericsson received Rs 4.62 billion ($67.42 million) from RCom as unpaid dues from a deal it had signed in 2014, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, who controls oil-to-telecoms powerhouse Reliance Industries, appears to have offered support to ensure Anil Ambani paid off total dues of Rs 5.5 billion ($80 million) to Ericsson.

The nature of the backing or how it was delivered was unclear, but in a statement, Anil Ambani thanked his billionaire brother "for standing by me during these trying times, and demonstrating the importance of staying true to our strong family values by extending this timely support".

RCom called off the sale of its telecom assets to Reliance Jio Infocomm, the mobile telecoms firm controlled by Mukesh Ambani, citing failure to get approvals from lenders and the government.

The Supreme Court had last month ordered Anil Ambani and two RCom directors to pay Rs Ericsson 4.5 billion within four weeks or face a three-month jail term for contempt of court.

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