Thai Airways faces court ruling on landmark debt rescue plan

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will not allow ailing flag-carrier Thai Airways International to collapse and dismissed rumours of impending lay-offs. (Bangkok Post photo). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BANGKOK, Sep 13, 2020, Bloomberg. Thai Airways International, the nation’s flagship carrier, faces one of its biggest challenges in its 60-year history, with the Central Bankruptcy Court set to rule on its debt restructuring on Monday, Bangkok Post reported.

The court will decide whether the airline can proceed with its plan to rehabilitate its debt. The company, which had total liabilities of 332.2 billion baht at the end of June, is one of the nation’s most high-profile debt cases.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the global travel industry, forcing airlines to suspend flights, lay off employees and seek financial help from governments and investors. Industry strains have been mounting in Asia, with Singapore Airlines eliminating about 20% of its workforce. THAI creditors are likely faced with a protracted process: the company is estimating that the rehabilitation process could take as long as seven years.

“The court’s debt rehabilitation approval is just a tiny step,” said Chanchai Chaiprasit, chief executive officer of PricewaterhouseCooper’s Thai unit. “It’s an uphill task to come up with a debt plan that would satisfy banks, aircraft lessors, suppliers and other lenders.”

Court’s ruling

The court judge will rule if THAI can proceed with the appointment of EY Corporate Advisory Services and the carrier’s board members as debt rehabilitation planners. A favourable ruling will allow THAI to start talks soon with debt-holders on the terms of restructuring the dues.

THAI was also dealt a further blow recently, when the Transport Ministry identified potential corruption in underpricing of tickets and excessive overtime costs. The Finance Ministry owns around 48% of THAI, according to an August filing.

The airline had defaulted on loans and bonds totaling 85 billion baht, or 33.1% of its total assets, according to its latest statement on July 22. It reported a net loss of 28 billion baht in the first half of this year, a more-than-fourfold jump from 6.44 billion baht during the same time a year ago as the carrier cancelled scheduled flights from April to comply with government rules to contain the pandemic.

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