Vijay Mallya has lost his billionaire tag and he acknowledged that with a tweet this morning. "Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes has removed me from the so-called Billionaires list… less jealousy, less frenzy and wrongful attacks,” the liquor baron has tweeted after Forbes magazine announced its list of India’s richest.
For long referred to as the "King of Good Times", Mr Mallya's losses in the aviation business with his Kingfisher Airlines have dragged down his net worth to below the $1 billion mark. With a fortune of $800 million (about Rs. 4,285 crore), he is now ranked 73rd, a sharp plunge from his 49th place last year.
Mr Mallya's thanksgiving this morning is bitter-sweet. But he has had some good news come his way at long last on the Kingfisher Airlines front yesterday. In a crucial breakthrough for the beleaguered, debt-laden airline, its pilots and engineers, who had been on strike since last month, yesterday accepted the management's offer of three months' salary, paid in tranches by Diwali and returned to work.
Fresh from that victory, the airline's CEO Sanjay Aggarwal is set to meet Arun Mishra, the director-general of civil aviation, today to submit a new flying schedule and seek a revocation of its licence suspension, sources have said.
Mr Mallya himself is expected to return to the country for the Formula One Indian Grand Prix that begins today. He co-owns the Force India team which is racing.
He will fly in to more cheer. From the stock markets, where the Kingfisher stock rose 4.6 per cent to touch its upper limit today as the management lifted its 24-day lockout. It opened the day 4.59 per cent higher and hit the day's upper circuit of Rs 11.40 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, shrugging of a weak stock market. On the National Stock Exchange, the scrip gained 4.61 per cent to Rs 11.35.
Of course his troubles are far from over. Mr Mallya's airline owes about Rs. 7,500 crore to 17 banks. The lenders together hold around a 23 per cent stake in the airline since March, after the banks converted their Rs. 6,500 crore of recast debt (after a corporate debt restructuring, or CDR, in November 2010) into equity. That apart, it has also accumulated a loss of Rs 8,000 crore and has never turned a profit since it was founded in 2003.
Forbes' calculations in pegging him below "billionaire" take into account all his travails. "...the tycoon, who has pledged a chunk of his shares, is believed to be trying to sell his stake in his liquor company, United Spirits, to Diageo to help pay off the airline's debts,” the Forbes’ report said, also noting that he has already sold part of his stake in his Formula One team. Also that he owns a cricket team and millions worth of Gandhi memorabilia.
The net worth is based on the shareholding and financial information from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and India's regulatory agencies, the magazine said. The fortune is calculated on the basis of stock prices and exchange rates information available as of October 12, the Forbes report said.
With inputs from PTI