Gopinath says keen to buy back budget carrier

MUMBAI Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:38pm IST

Vijay Mallya (R) and G. R. Gopinath, are seen in Mumbai in this June 1, 2007 file photo. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd Vice Chairman G.R. Gopinath said on Wednesday he is interested in buying back the budget airline of Kingfisher if Chairman Vijay Mallya exits the low-cost carrier model. REUTERS/Stringer

Vijay Mallya (R) and G. R. Gopinath, are seen in Mumbai in this June 1, 2007 file photo. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd Vice Chairman G.R. Gopinath said on Wednesday he is interested in buying back the budget airline of Kingfisher if Chairman Vijay Mallya exits the low-cost carrier model.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Kingfisher Airlines Ltd Vice Chairman G.R. Gopinath said on Wednesday he is interested in buying back the budget airline of Kingfisher if Chairman Vijay Mallya exits the low-cost carrier model.

On Monday, Kingfisher and top private carrier Jet Airways agreed on a cost-saving alliance involving code-sharing, sharing of ticketing, ground services and joint fuel management.

But Gopinath, who was the founder of budget airline Air Deccan, told news channel NDTV Profit the code-sharing alliance between Kingfisher and Jet Airways would create a monopoly, hurting the interests of the industry as a whole.

"A long-term monopoly is not good for the country, not good for the consumer, neither is it good for the airline industry itself," he told the channel, adding he would continue to be against any such monopoly.

Gopinath said he would want to buy back Air Deccan, which was rechristened Kingfisher Red following the merger of Kingfisher with Deccan Aviation Ltd, which ran Air Deccan.

"If both Vijay Mallya and Naresh Goyal ...want to exit the low-cost model because they think it is embarrasing for them, then let me buy it back," he told the news channel.

"It can't be a hostile takeover since Vijay Mallya owns more than 60 percent stake, but if he wants to exit the space then it (Air Deccan) should be spun off into a separate entity. Even he (Mallya) will get the money that he needs," Gopinath said.

Though he did not have finances for the purchase at the moment, Gopinath said he was confident many investors would be interested in backing him in the effort.

"Even when I started Air Deccan, I did not have any money, still people put money in my airline," he added.

Gopinath, a pioneer of the low-cost carrier model in India, said the budget carrier model was sustainable, adding that occupancy rates had gone down due to repeated fare hikes.

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