x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mallya to unveil Kingfisher revival plans

Vijay Mallya, a Formula One tycoon nicknamed the 'King of Good Times', met India's civil aviation secretary, KN Shrivastava, ahead of presenting a revival blueprint for his beleaguered carrier.

NEW DELHI //The billionaire owner of grounded Kingfisher Airlines yesterday said he would give the government a "comprehensive" plan to revive his debt-laden carrier.

Vijay Mallya, a Formula One tycoon nicknamed the "King of Good Times", met India's civil aviation secretary, KN Shrivastava, ahead of presenting a revival blueprint for his beleaguered carrier.

"I have briefed him on [the] revival and restart plan," said Mr Mallya, 56, who is also an independent member of parliament. "It will be a comprehensive plan. All hurdles will be crossed."

The directorate general of civil aviation, the airline industry's regulator, suspended Kingfisher's licence earlier this month until it came up with a "viable" revival plan.

The debt-ridden airline, named after Mr Mallya's biggest beverage brand, owes billions of dollars in taxes and airport fees. A pay dispute that led to a strike by pilots was only resolved last week.

Mr Mallya owns a yacht, property across the world and a fleet of vintages cars but his empire is facing an increasing financial crunch.

His flagship United Breweries, India's biggest brewer, is in talks to sell a stake to Diageo, which analysts say could raise US$800 million (Dh2,9 billion).

Kingfisher, which has $1.4bn in debts, now has a fleet of 15 aircraft, down from 64 planes as it battles to curb costs. It has halted international operations and has the smallest market share among Indian airlines at 5.4 per cent.

Kingfisher's problems are the worst among India's private carriers, partly due to overly rapid expansion. The government is reviving debt-laden state-run Air India with a nearly $6bn bailout.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, a Sydney-based consultancy, said in a report that Kingfisher's debt was $2.49bn, including bank debts of $1.1bn, and that it had losses of $1.9bn.