Garuda faces key debt deadline with restructuring on the line

Garuda Indonesia has been trying to avoid bankruptcy as it struggles with the decimation of the global travel industry due to the pandemic. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Troubled flag carrier Garuda Indonesia faces a key deadline on Thursday (June 17) with a payment on its Islamic debt that will reflect its ability to deal with a financing crunch.

The South-east Asian airline has been trying to avoid bankruptcy as it struggles with the decimation of the global travel industry due to the pandemic. The government said early this month that it is considering a debt standstill for the carrier to allow it to restructure.

The state-owned company missed the distribution payment on a US$500 million (S$669 million) sukuk on June 3, and the 14-day grace period ends on Thursday. The syariah-compliant note due in June 2023 has dropped around 35 US cents on the dollar so far this month to a record low of about 41 US cents, prices compiled by Bloomberg show.

Garuda is thoroughly reviewing the adequacy of its cash flow for operational needs, finance director Prasetio said by a text message late on Tuesday in response to a question about whether the Jakarta-based airline can meet the sukuk payment deadline.

New variants of the coronavirus are adding uncertainty to the outlook for airlines around the world, as tentative plans to open up travel destinations are delayed or shelved. Dozens have collapsed or been forced to restructure and adjust their fleets to ride out the crisis.

Among them in Asia, Thai Airways International said this week it is seeking new loans to help fund operations after the court approved its plan to rehabilitate at least 170 billion baht (S$7.2 billion) of debt.

Garuda has offered early retirement to its staff and is renegotiating contracts with lessors. President director Irfan Setiaputra said last month that the carrier needs to completely restructure its business, potentially reducing the number of planes to less than half its main fleet.

The airline is in the process of appraising several units to be divested as part of its total restructuring plan, Mr Setiaputra said on Metro TV late Tuesday.

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