Kingfisher Air Plans Revival With Parent UB Group’s FundsKarthikeyan Sundaram
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., the Indian carrier that stopped flying in October because of a cash crunch, plans to restart services with funds from parent UB Group, according to an e-mail Chairman Vijay Mallya sent to employees.
The airline will resume flights this year with seven aircraft, before increasing its fleet to 21 within four months, Mallya, who controls the UB Group, said in the e-mailed letter today. UB Group, which includes India’s biggest liquor maker, and associates have committed 6.5 billion rupees ($119 million) to fund the carrier’s revival plan, he said in the letter.
Kingfisher, the only Indian carrier to order Airbus SAS superjumbos, has been seeking cash for more than two years and was in talks with possible investors such as Etihad Airways PJSC for its revival. The airline lost its operating license on Jan. 1 after failing to convince authorities it has enough cash to restart operations.
“The plan shows that despite being in a helpless situation, Mallya is trying to make an effort,” said Harsh Vardhan, chairman of Starair Consulting, a New Delhi-based company that advises airlines. “The founder’s determination plays a very important and definite role in any revival.”
Mallya didn’t respond to two calls made to his mobile phone.
Kingfisher jumped 9.7 percent at close of Mumbai trading, its first advance in six days. The benchmark BSE India Sensitive Index was little changed. The stock fell 29 percent last year, after slumping 68 percent in 2011.
Kingfisher’s founders have contributed 11.5 billion rupees to the company since April 1, Mallya, who has given personal guarantees worth 59 billion rupees for the carrier’s loans, said in September. In November, the liquor tycoon agreed to sell a stake in United Spirits Ltd. to London-based Diageo Plc.
India’s aviation regulator suspended Kingfisher’s permit in October following flight disruptions caused by strikes triggered by unpaid wages. Employees later agreed to resume work after management pledged to pay salaries.
The carrier, which was No. 2 in India by market share in 2011, has piled up a debt of 85 billion rupees. It also defaulted on payments to fuel suppliers, creditors and airports as its losses widened amid rising fuel costs and a price war.
The Bangalore, India-based carrier has two years to seek the renewal of its license, according to the letter. The Mint newspaper reported Mallya’s letter on its website earlier today.