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UB Group tries to pacify Kingfisher lenders

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 16, 2013 10:46 hrs
A passenger walks past a near-empty Kingfisher airlines ticketing office at Mumbai's domestic airport

In a bid to assuage the irate lenders of Kingfisher Airlines, parent company UB Group on Friday said it would find an early solution to the financial mess of the airline. It said it would use proceeds from the stake sale of a group company to Diageo.

UB Group's latest move comes two days after Kingfisher Airlines' lenders threatened to recall the Rs 7,500 crore loans given to Kingfisher Airlines by encashing the corporate and personal guarantees of UB Group and its chairman, Vijay Mallya.



"We have received no formal communication from the banks till date. We are in continuing discussions with them on ways to bring down their exposure, inter alia, from the proceeds of the Diageo transaction. The banks explicitly support the transaction with Diageo and would work with us in finding an orderly method of disposal of some of the pledged shares to Diageo if appropriate," said UB group in a statement.

However, the group did not explain how the proceeds from the deal with Diageo would be channelled to Kingfisher Airlines' lenders.

In early November 2012, Diageo, UB Holdings (UBHL) and United Spirits (USL) had announced a transaction worth Rs 11,100 crore, to give Diageo a controlling 53.4 per cent stake in USL. During that transaction, Diageo and UB Group had announced a 27.4 per cent stake would be acquired by Diageo from USL and UBHL and the remaining 26 per cent from the public shareholders of USL.

As part of the first step of acquiring the 27.4 per cent stake, Diageo is to pay Rs 5,600 crore to USL and UBHL. A sum of Rs 3,200 crore would go into USL, which will be used for its own debt reduction and operations. The rest, Rs 2,400 crore, will go to UBHL, to pay back its lenders and release the pledged shares so that these can be transferred to Diageo. After this transaction, UBHL will hold 13.4 per cent of the enlarged share capital, a majority of which has been pledged.

While announcing the deal with Diageo, Mallya had specifically added that UBHL would look into issues pertaining to Kingfisher Airlines and take appropriate steps. With UBHL's debt at close to Rs 3,000 crore and a majority of the proceeds from Diageo to be used to reduce it, it would be difficult for UB Group to use the proceeds from the deal with Diageo to pare Kingfisher Airlines' debt.

According to analysts tracking the company, with USL's stock price shooting up around 70 per cent during the past six months - it currently trades in the Rs 1,800-Rs 1,900 levels - UBHL could look at offloading a part of its holdings and pay the proceeds to Kingfisher Airlines' lenders. In addition, UB Holdings has real estate assets, which, when encashed, could fetch about Rs 650 crore. This can also be used to pay off part of Kingfisher Airlines' debt.

The airline has been grounded for nearly six months and its licence suspended. In addition to the huge dues towards the consortium of banks, Kingfisher is also a defaulter to most of its stake holders such as airport operators, oil marketing companies, aircraft lessors and its 3,000-odd employees. Its accumulated losses stand at close to Rs 8,000 crore.

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