Besides its plush interiors, a bar, shower cabin and a private resting area, the luxury jet comes with an added appeal: The vanity plate of former billionaire Vijay Mallya. Still, the impounded aircraft, now up for sale by Indian authorities seeking to recover unpaid dues, hasn’t found too many takers.
India’s government on Wednesday decided to postpone a scheduled auction of the jet by more than a month after receiving interest from only one party before the deadline for pre-bids ended this week. It is seeking to dispose of the jet, which was grounded more than three years ago following the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
The planned sale of the aircraft bearing the registration VT-VJM, Mallya’s initials, is the latest attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in its battle against defaulters as the nation’s banks struggle to rein in distressed assets. Mallya has become the public face of this standoff after he left for the U.K. early this year, prompting the government to call him a fugitive whose carrier owes as much as $1.4 billion.
“This shows the challenge for the government in recovering bad loans,” said Hatim Broachwala, a Mumbai-based banking analyst at Nirmal Bang Institutional Equities.
Sumanto Bhattacharya, a spokesman to Mallya and his UB Group, declined to comment. D.S. Malik, the New Delhi-based spokesman for the finance ministry, didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone.
Three or four more parties may be interested and they need to get a chance to inspect the plane, and delaying the auction may allow them more time, people with direct knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.
The service tax department, which seized the Airbus Group SE A319 aircraft, will now hold the auction on June 29 and 30, MSTC Ltd., the state-run agent for the auction said on its website on Wednesday. The sale was originally scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week.
The Dutch government was the only party to register for the auction, ET Now television channel reported Tuesday, without saying where it obtained the information.
Exotic and Luxurious