While the F1 world is waiting to hear about Vijya Mallya’s plans for Force India drivers next year, over in India things have not much improved for the beer baron-turned airline owner. In the last couple of days five of the planes belonging to his grounded Kingfisher Airlines have been taken back by the US-based leasing company ILFC and another one has been confiscated by tax authorities.
Despite the fact that Mallya recently announced that he was selling control of his family’s whisky business to Diageo, it seems that money is not yet flowing into the airline and the latest reports in India suggest that the airline has been asked by Mumbai Airport to vacate the space it occupies.
There have also been stories that banks have adopted a tougher strategy towards Mallya after he announced that he would be injecting $80 million into the F1 team, saying that he should pay his debts before pouring money into his toys. One option for the creditors would be to invoke the personal guarantees that have been given over the years for loans, which would in effect mean that the banks would take over the shares and thus (perhaps) win control of the business.
There have also been reports that Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is considering taking a 48 percent stake in Kingfisher, in a deal worth $553 million. This does not make a lot of sense given that the airline has debts of at least $2.5 billion and such a deal would value it at only $1.1 billion.
Etihad is keen to grow its business in the region and has been buying stakes in other airlines, but it is hard to see the logic of a Kingfisher deal.
Time will tell, no doubt.