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Global toast to UB's spirits business

Suman Layak, PTI   May 09, 2005
First Published: 12:18 IST(4/5/2005) | Last Updated: 21:38 IST(9/5/2005)

UB has invested heavily in Kingfisher Airlines even as the liquor business is seeing huge growth through the acquisition of Shaw Wallace. How are you managing the demand for cash?
To be precise, UB has invested Rs. 190 crore in Kingfisher Airlines. But we had planned our moves well in advance. We had seen the Shaw Wallace opportunity coming and we were able to provide proof of funds to the tune of $300 million. That is one of the reasons why we got Shaw Wallace. We did not have to go searching for funds. There was no doubt about UB's creditworthiness among our financial partners. Even today Debis, the aircraft leasing company, has put $200 million worth of assets in our hands. In 2006, when we buy more planes, we will need more cash. There is always the possibility of going to the market. We will do it by 2010. We have mentioned that we might do it sooner, but tomorrow if we get a buyer offering Rs. 1,000 crore for one of UB's non-core businesses we may not need to go to the market to raise money.


Does that indicate that UB's noncore businesses are up for sale?
No. What I meant was that every single business can be sold for the right price. Tomorrow if someone offers an outrageous price for our liquor business, we may even sell that.

What are your immediate plans for the liquor business?
We will now focus on consolidating the business. We need to do things in a careful and calculated manner. Acquisition of Shaw Wallace was a very big achievement, so is starting up Kingfisher Airlines. But consolidation is a big challenge. Integrating Shaw Wallace, where there have been years of anti-UB sentiment, will be a big challenge. Already KPMG and Haribhakti are working on the various swaps because there are many public companies involved. Accenture is working on the business integration model. A committee has been formed with two persons each from Jumbo and UB to look after the transition.

You are now the world's second largest liquor manufacturer. Do you plan to have a global presence?
One of my key objectives is to globalise the spirits business. There is a good market for our products outside India. We are building these markets. At the same time India remains a big market that is growing very fast. However, we are keen on a global platform and we will have to grow through acquisitions in the overseas market. Five years would be a reasonable timeframe for globalising the business.

Do you plan to extend the King fisher brand to other products too?
Yes, absolutely. Kingfisher is already in fashion, music, water, beer and airlines. There will be other extensions into areas that suit the Kingfisher brand principles. But for the time being, we have to focus on stabilising the airline.

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