Kingfisher Airlines CEO Resigns

Sanjay Aggarwal had joined the airline in September 2010 from India's second largest low-fare airline SpiceJet.


Feb. 17--MUMBAI -- Kingfisher Airlines Ltd's chief executive officer (CEO) Sanjay Aggarwal has resigned, two company executives said, making him the last of the senior management executives from outside the UB Group to quit the grounded airline.

"Aggarwal has put in his papers. The management is expected to accept his resignation," one of the two persons said. They both declined to be identified.

Mint could not immediately reach Aggarwal for comment despite repeated efforts. Kingfisher Airlines' spokesperson declined to comment. Vijay Mallya, who is chairman of both Kingfisher Airlines and parent UB Group, also did not offer any comment.

With Aggarwal's exit, only A. Raghunathan, chief financial officer and a UB Group man, is left in a senior position at Kingfisher.

Aggarwal had joined Kingfisher Airlines on 30 September 2010 from India's second largest low-fare airline SpiceJet Ltd.

Aggarwal had led SpiceJet as its CEO and led the low-cost airline back to profitability. He quit the airline when media baron Kalanithi Maran of Sun TV Network Ltd bought SpiceJet in June 2010. Prior to joining SpiceJet, Aggarwal was chief operating office of Flight Options, the world's second largest private jet provider. He had also worked for US Airways for six years.

Mallya brought in Aggarwal to help turn around the loss-making Kingfisher Airlines.

"There is nothing left in Kingfisher Airlines," said K. Sudarshan, regional managing partner (Asia), EMA Partners International, an executive search firm.

Sudarshan said Mallya is still hopeful of reviving Kingfisher Airlines and is reportedly in talks with potential investors.

"Probably Mallya can restart the airline with a different balance sheet but with the same brand, Kingfisher Airlines, as many passengers like the airline," Sudarshan said.

In January, Rajesh Verma resigned as executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines. Verma was one of the company's longest-serving employees and had been associated with the grounded airline since June 2006.

In May, Hitesh Patel resigned as executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines. Patel was a key member of the start-up team responsible for the certification of Kingfisher Airlines in 2005, having joined in August 2004.

Losses at Kingfisher Airlines, which hasn't flown since October 2012, widened to Rs.822.42 crore in the three months ended 31 December, compared with a loss of Rs.755.17 crore in the same period a year ago, the airline said on 12 February.

With its planes remaining on the ground, the airline had no sales in the reporting quarter, mirroring the zero sales from a year ago.

The Mumbai-based airline had accumulated losses of Rs.16,023.46 crore as on 31 March 2013 and its net worth was a negative Rs.12,919.82 crore. Kingfisher Airlines, launched in 2005, has never made a profit.

Kingfisher's operating licence was suspended in October 2012 by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation following a strike by the airline's employees. The permit has since expired, although it can be renewed within two years, which is by October this year.

Meanwhile, a group of 14 lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI) that has an exposure of Rs.7,000 crore to the airline is trying to recover at least Rs.1,000 crore from it by selling assets such as buildings, helicopters and other fixed assets. The consortium collected Rs.550-600 crore in the first phase by selling pledged shares of associate companies of Kingfisher Airlines's parent UB Group.

The Indian aviation sector is set to see increased competition as more airlines are preparing to fly. Tata Sons Ltd has floated two joint ventures to run airlines, one with Singapore Airlines Ltd for a full-service airline and another with Malaysia's AirAsia Bhd for a low-fare carrier, after the government relaxed foreign direct investment rules for the sector. Both ventures are awaiting regulatory clearances.

Copyright 2014 - Mint, New Delhi

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