The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mallya rules out fresh Sahara bid

Mumbai, June 21: Vijay Mallya, chairman of Kingfisher Airlines, isn’t planning to revive his bid for Air Sahara if Subrata Roy’s deal with Jet Airways falls apart.

Mallya’s comment in response to swirling media reports about his renewed interest in the airline was terse: “Absolute rubbish”.

Mallya, who is currently in Europe watching the World Cup football matches and tying up a $15-million deal for French wine company Bouvet-Ladubay, a subsidiary of Taittinger, had bid $400 million for Air Sahara last December but walked away when Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways aggressively bid up the price to $500 million.

Goyal now realises that the bid for Air Sahara is hugely overblown ' a point that Mallya has maintained all along. But there’s no rancour, and no sense of schadenfreud: Mallya isn’t chuckling over Goyal’s troubles and the latter’s desperate bid to disengage from the deal.

Air Sahara was valued by Ernst and Young at between $750 million and $1 billion last year ' a figure that staggered all the bidders for the beleaguered airline.

Mallya says he is always on the lookout for deals where he can increase shareholder value, but has no qualms about walking away from the table if the deal doesn’t create value for his shareholders.

He points to the Air Sahara deal and the Taittinger bid as two instances where he has been able to walk away from the table “gracefully”.

Mallya had emerged as the highest bidder for Taittinger with an offer of 730 million euros but then ran into a bidding war with erstwhile owners of the wine group backed by French bank Credit Agricole.

But Mallya is pretty chuffed by the way Kingfisher First ' the premium service on his fledgling airline ' has started to pique the interest of the discerning air traveller who loves to be pampered and spoilt for choice.

“We have had very good bookings since we started our premium service in April,” he told reporters recently where he introduced the five-member advisory board to Kingfisher Airlines.

The airline has been suffering losses since it started operations last year ' but this was budgeted. What is gratifying is that the airline is making a loss that is far short of what was projected.

“In the first year we projected a loss of Rs 190 crore ' we are well short of that. In the second year (2006-07), we are projecting Rs 120 crore and we will come in short again. By 2008, we will break even,” the Kingfisher chairman had said.

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