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Thai Airways debt restructure plan cleared by Bangkok court
A Thai Airways plane takes off from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Photo: Reuters

A Thai court has approved the ailing airline’s $12.9 billion debt makeover proposal as it seeks to recover from years of struggle, made even worse by 2020’s worldwide pandemic

 

Thai Airways has won court approval for a $12.9 billion debt restructure as the carrier, which is already in bankruptcy protection, looks to turn around its fortunes.

The court ruling removes the last hurdle to the plan, seen as critical for the airline which last year posted a record loss of about $4.5 billion.

In its order, the Central Bankruptcy Court in Bangkok said it approved the rehabilitation plan and no changes had been made to the plan that had been approved by creditors.

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A committee of five, including the airline’s acting chief executive Chansin Treenuchagron and its former CEO, Piyasvasti Amranand, will administer the plan, which covers the airline’s debt of 400 billion baht ($12.86 billion).

Piyasvasti helmed the airline the last time it was profitable from 2009 to 2012.

The airline was in difficulty well before the coronavirus pandemic grounded many flights across the globe, booking losses nearly every year after 2012.

The restructuring plan for 170 billion baht worth of debt relies heavily on debt extensions and debt-to-equity conversions, Somboon said. The airline was also reducing debt with airplane lessors.

LEASES CANCELLED

Leasing agreements for 16 jets were being cancelled and the debt was being negotiated, Chief Financial Officer Chai Eamsiri told a news conference.

The airline was in talks with government and private financial institutions to obtain 50 billion baht in new capital to support its cash flow, he added.

In March, the carrier said it planned to cut its fleet size to 86 jets by 2025 from 103 now. Thai Airways says it has cut 30 billion baht in expenses.

The Thai government holds a 47.86% stake in the carrier, but it is not governed by the country’s state-enterprise law.

PHUKET FLIGHTS

Thai Airways this month resumed routes between European cities and the resort island of Phuket in Thailand, anticipating a government scheme to allow vaccinated tourists to skip a mandatory quarantine. It expects to carry about a thousand passengers in July.

Analysts blame internal inefficiencies for the carrier’s trouble with budget and long-haul rivals.

“Thai Airway’s challenges are mainly institutional and inefficiency. The airline should rely less on government support to ward off external influence and professionalise management,” said Ben Kiatkwankul of the Maverick Consulting Group business advisory firm.

“The Phuket tourism sandbox flights will be an initial test.”

 

  • Reporting by Reuters

 

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Sean OMeara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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