Mallya committed to F1 and Force India

© Ubaid Parkar, 26 May 2012
© Force India

Vijay Mallya shot down the suggestion that he no longer retained the same passion for Formula 1 as he does for cricket now after the Force India team principal made his first appearance of the year at the sixth round of the season.

The Indian entrepreneur is currently facing financial difficulties in regards to his Kingfisher airlines, which placed doubts on his commitment to his F1 team to continue this season and beyond, although he failed to comprehend the "wild connections" between the two.

"I don’t quite understand the correlation between sporting interests, which are personal in nature, and my business interests," Mallya said. "I have several large public companies, most of which, with the exception of the airline, are doing very well. The airline is a victim of extraordinarily high oil prices and excessive taxation.

"Now, what you read and what you gather from what you read, is something that I don’t care to comment on," he said referring to numerous reports about the ailing airline. "Sahara Force India is independent, fully funded. It’s a joint venture between the Sahara Group and myself, there has been a significant capital infusion at the end of 2011, another significant capital infusion from the Sahara Group is due in 2012 and going beyond to 2013. So, Sahara Force India is extremely well taken care of and set.

"My other sporting interests, well, I was at every IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket game, as any passionate Indian would be," he pointed out.

Mallya was further probed whether he would make a choice between his airline and his F1 team but he gunned down the assumption that the troubles would permeate into his other ventures.

"How can you even start to make such a comparison?" he retorted. "One is a large, public utility per se. How would you call Formula 1? A public utility or a public spectacle? An airline is not intended to be a spectacle and a Formula 1 team is not intended to be a public utility either. So where’s the comparison?

"Sahara Force India is private team. Kingfisher Airlines is a listed entity. The banks own 23 percent of the equity of the airline. It’s a public company, limited by liability as all limited companies are, so it’s a plc. So the two are incomparable," he clarified.

Mallya also hit back at the implication that it was inappropriate for him to stage parties on his luxury boat, held Thursday evening, for fears of having to justify it considering the issues he has had.

"Justify what and to whom?" he asked. "As I said, I have 20 different businesses. I have six large publically listed companies, each one is completely independent with different shareholders. One does not cross-subsidise the other because that would violate all principles of corporate governance.

"If one business, for whatever reason, is not doing well, it doesn’t mean that every other business has to shut down," he reasoned. "Every business has to be continued within its own values, within its own corporate objectives and the party that I host in Monaco each year is a promotion for United Spirits Ltd which has nothing to do with the airline.

"So because the airline is a victim of – as I said – high fuel costs and excessive taxation doesn’t meant that other public companies and their stakeholders should necessarily be compromised. So who should I justify what to?"

Mallya was absent from the first five races as there were "too many conflicting obligations".

"Parliament, for one, is in session in March and April and that makes it very difficult for me to leave India," he went on to elaborate. "I otherwise would have enjoyed going to flyaway races. But the union budget was presented only in the middle of March this year as opposed to the end of February so I was obliged to stay back and attend parliament.

"Then, of course, in early April starts the IPL cricket and you know we Indians are pretty passionate about the game of cricket," he added. "In fact, I remember I was telling Monisha (Kaltenborn), that three years ago my team reached the finals of the IPL and I actually had to regretfully abandon the Monaco Grand Prix and fly back on the Saturday night to make the Sunday final.

“But now it’s all over, done and dusted and now I can enjoy Formula 1 particularly in the summer in Europe and in North America,” he said.


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