Uncertainty still clouds Merpati

- Reporter

Selasa, 4 Maret 2014 - 23:53

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Zonalinenews-Jakarta. Uncertainty continues to hang over the joint-operation deal that would allow ailing state-owned carrier PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines to resume operations.


Merpati’s president director, Asep Ekanugraha, conceded it was highly unlikely that the airline would be ready to operate in March, as he had previously promised.



“It will be delayed. We are currently evaluating the whole process,” Asep told reporters after a closed-door meeting with the Merpati Employees Forum on Friday.

The airline had previously hoped to see a joint-operation deal come to fruition by March.

However, so far, no firm business partners have arrived on the scene to provide Merpati with the working capital
necessary to jump-start operations.

Asep declined to elaborate on the joint-operation progress, saying that in order to commence restructuring, the airline needed “transitional funds” from the government.

“We need full support from the government in order to rise again,” he continued, while refusing to name a figure.

Aside from facing the company’s bleak future, Asep has also been dealing with complaints from the airline’s employees, particularly over the appointment of Andika Monoarfa as the company’s commercial business manager.

The employees consider Andika, who previously worked in artist management, has no experience or knowledge about the airline industry.

Merpati has been unable to pay salaries to its employees since December last year, which resulted in a recent mass resignation of more than 50 pilots.

The airline has incurred Rp 7.3 trillion (US$607 million) in debts, surpassing its assets of around Rp 3 trillion. More than half of the debt is owed to the government and other state-owned enterprises.

Merpati requires between Rp 1.7 trillion and Rp 2.6 trillion to restart operations, adding that the airline hoped to stay afloat by forming KSOs with business partners, including private companies.

To ease its expenses, the airline aims to proceed with its plan to spin off two of its units — the Merpati Maintenance Facility (MMF) and Merpati Training Center (MTC) — and hopes to collect Rp 150 billion in the process.

Merpati Employees Forum secretary-general Erry Wardhana said that during Friday’s meeting, the airline’s board of directors said the funds gained from the spin-offs would be used to pay insurance, salaries, fuel as well as irregularities, including indemnity costs after the airline halted its operation on Feb. 1.

“The question is, will the funding be sufficient to support the airline’s business plan to sustain and resume operations? It looks like it won’t be enough,” Erry said.

He added that the business plan stated that the first injection of funds to resume operation, amounting to Rp 1 billion provided by business partners, would be disbursed in June.

“The president director Asep, however, could not convince us that any potential business partners had clearly stated a willingness to help,” Erry said.

“Everything that he [Asep] told us is impossible to achieve, while the Rp 150 billion of funds from the spin-offs will be spent without any certainty that the airline will resume operations,” he said.

Merpati operated both pioneering and commercial routes. However, the government has offered 19 of Merpati’s exclusive routes, including Biak (Papua) to Sorong (West Papua), to other airlines. (*konten/Nadya Natahadibrata)

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