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Corporate Feb 13, 2013

Kingfisher Air’s logical end accentuates Mallya’s illogical life

By Rajesh Pandathil

Two reports related to Kingfisher are prominent today on Google - first, of course, is the lenders' move to recall debt of the grounded airline and the second is on that much-ogled eponymous calendar, where a model says the shoot for the 2013 one was "magical".

While the former is a logical conclusion, which many may have foreseen, of the much-reported financial stress of Chairman Vijay Mallya's airline, the latter holds a mirror to his irresponsible, extravagant personal life (again much-reported) that defies all logic.

Unfortunately for him, the talking point today is going to be the financial strain.

AFP

Mallya poses with models of one of the Kingfisher Calendars. AFP

According to a PTI report, Kingfisher lenders on Tuesday finally decided to start the recovery process for Rs 7,500-crore loans given to the grounded airline.

"We have reached a dead end. Now, we will seek legal advice for recovering the debt," a senior banker has been quoted as saying in a Mint report.

The PTI report says the future course of action will be decided by each bank board.

The meeting was attended by five bankers, led by SBI, and the airline's management, including CEO Sanjay Agarwal and UB Group President and CFO Ravi Nedungadi. It has to be remembered that lenders had earlier insisted that Mallya has to be present personally at the meetings, which he never did.

A loan recall seeks to force the borrower to repay the loans immediately, says a BS report. And Shyamal Acharya, deputy managing director of the State Bank of India expects the process to get under way in 7-10 days.

Banks have said they have not yet got any concrete, credible plan from Kingfisher. "How long can we wait?" Acharya has been quoted as saying in a Reuters report.

Banks were hopeful that some money would flow into the airline after Mallya sealed a Rs 11,100 crore Diageo deal by selling majority stake in his liquor business United Spirits.

Mallya had, however, said these are two different companies. The bankers were also banking on some equity infusion into the airline by a foreign player following the enabling regulatory environment, but the airline has not been able to find an investor so far.

Interestingly, airline officials are still hopeful. They hope to start operations by summer. CEO Sanjay Agarwal has said that the salary dues to employees will be paid shortly.

But for the staff, it is well turning out to be a jam tomorrow situation. This is not the first (or even second or third) time the airline has promised this. And now with banks initiating loan recovery, their uncertainty just got heightened. They have not been paid salaries from May.

As far as banks are concerned, they will have to "take a hair cut", meaning the difference between the market value of the collateral and value assessed by the lender.

Acharya, however, did not quantify this in the PTI report. Whatever the extent is, it is likely to run into crores of rupees considering the huge exposure they have.

The exposure of banks to the troubled carrier runs into Rs 6,360 crore. Unpaid interest and compounded interest take it to over Rs 7,500 crore. SBI, the leader of the consortium of lenders, has the maximum exposure with Rs 1,600 crore, followed by Punjab National Bank with Rs 800 crore, IDBI Bank Rs 800 crore, Bank of India Rs 650 crore and Bank of Baroda Rs 550 crore.

Others banks like United Bank of India has Rs 430 crore, Central Bank of India (Rs 410 crore), Uco Bank (Rs 320 crore), Corporation Bank (Rs 310 crore), State Bank of Mysore, (Rs 150 crore), Indian Overseas Bank (Rs 140 crore), Federal Bank (Rs 90 crore), Punjab & Sind Bank (Rs 60 crore) and Axis Bank (Rs 50 crore).

Adding the unapplied interest, the total debt to the consortium will be Rs 7,000 crore. This is against a measly pledge of the Kingfisher Villa in Goa and the Kingfisher House in Mumbai, which may at best fetch Rs 300 crore to the lenders, apart from some personal guarantee by Mallya.

All the 17 banks in the consortium have provided for their exposure to the airline and declared them as bad loans. Since January 2012, the airline has not been servicing the loan.

It is clear that banks will have take deeper cuts as the airline has not given practically anything in guarantees, the PTI report said.

They had given the credit on brand Kingfisher, which unfortunately is strong only on the calendar and the beer now.

Lenders outside the consortium are Srei Infrastructure Finance (Rs 430 crore), Jammu & Kashmir Bank (Rs 80 crore) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (Rs 50 crore).

If banks' action ends the turbulent flight of the airline, it is unfortunate for many others, including its staff and shareholders.

For Mallya, a spirited entrepreneur who started, closed and sold a number of companies over the last few decades, this could be one story he desperately wants to forget.

But, unfortunately, Kingfisher Calendar will ensure the memory returns to him every year.

by Rajesh Pandathil

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