General News April 4 2011
Merpati denies bankruptcy risk
Indonesia’s state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines – weighed down with debt of 1.9 trillion rupiah (US$214.68 million) and with creditors chasing it for payment – has denied that it is heading for bankruptcy.
The cash-strapped carrier has approached the Indonesian government through the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Jakarta in the hope of obtaining 600 billion rupiah to support day-to-day operations. An MOT official, who asked to remain anonymous, says the government cannot keep bailing the airline out each time it asks.
Still, Merpati’s President Director Sardjono Jhony Tjitrokusumo dismisses the idea that the airline may go bankrupt. “We may be in debt, but we will pull through the storm,” Sardjono says. He adds that the 600 billion rupiah requested is in fact needed as part payment for new aircraft to be acquired, declining to elaborate.
According to Merpati Workers Union Chairperson Indra Topan, the carrier is having difficulty keeping up fuel payments to state-owned oil company Pertamina. The company has warned Merpati that it will stop supplying fuel to the airline if it continues to ignore requests for the payment of outstanding bills. Airport management and air traffic services company PT Angkasa Pura is another big creditor of the airline.
Merpati moved its base from Jakarta to Surabaya last year, as part of a restructuring drive. The carrier’s workforce of 2,500 was trimmed to 1,300 and its international flights to Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore were halted.
From 84 aircraft in December 2008, the fleet has now been scaled down to 31, including nine Chinese-made Xian MA60 turboprops, one of which has been grounded for repairs since January at El Tari Airport in Kupang.
Most of the aircraft from the 2008 fleet have been parked at airports across the country, without maintenance support to keep them airworthy. Merpati is 93.2 percent owned by the government and 6.8 percent by flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.