With banks going after him to recover unpaid loans given to long-grounded Kingfisher Airlines, beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya remains defiant and says his “only regret” is that the carrier is not flying when the oil price has dipped so low.
“I have no regrets as such. Perhaps the only regret is that Kingfisher Airlines is not flying today when the oil price is so low,” Mallya said.
When asked about his long professional journey, Mallya who inherited the UB Group from his father as a young 28-year-old, said he has got “nothing to prove”.
“I built India’s biggest beer company. I built India’s biggest spirits company. Okay, Kingfisher Airlines went wrong. But there is a whole list of reasons why it went wrong,” Mallya said in an interview days after Diageo settlement.
“Aisa nahi ki bewakoofi se band ho gaya (it did not shut down for some stupid reason)… There were genuine reasons. It did not go well. You experience ups and downs in life… (but in the end) I have enough to be proud of,” he said.
Mallya, known for his flamboyance and lavish parties, also brushed aside the criticism about he deciding to spend more time in England after Diageo deal.
“… I have had my residence in England (for a long time) … So what is new? All I have said is that I would like to spend more with my family,” he said.
Mallya, widely known as the ‘King of Good Times’ in his heydays, had to quit recently as chairman of United Spirits — a company founded by his family in which he sold majority stake to UK-based liquor giant Diageo. As part of the deal that also ended a year-long boardroom battle at United Spirits, Diageo has agreed to pay Mallya $75 million.
The settlement was sealed even as at least three banks including state-run giant SBI declaring Kingfisher, Mallya and his group holding firm UBHL (United Breweries Holding Ltd) as ‘wilful defaulters’ to recover unpaid loans amounting to thousands of crores of rupees.
Once billed as the most luxurious airline, Kingfisher had to be grounded in October 2012 after it landed in a major financial crisis with huge loans and payment defaults including to the oil companies and airports.
Global crude oil prices have fallen by almost 75 per cent from the peak seen in mid-2014. While airlines in India still complain that the fall in crude prices has not got translated fully in the aviation fuel prices, their fuel cost has still come down by 30-40 per cent.
Most airlines reported better financials in the last quarter on account of low oil prices.
State Bank of India had on Wednesday approached the Debt Recovery Tribunal seeking action against the UB Group promoter for defaulting on loans, including his arrest and impounding of his passport.