Mumbai: Billionaire Vijay Mallya, who also owns Kingfisher Airlines, plans to pick up a personal, controlling stake in Epic Aircraft, a US-based aircraft manufacturing company, for at least $200 million (Rs820 crore).
“I am in talks with Epic promoter,” said Mallya, confirming the proposed Epic investment talks to Mint on Saturday, even as he announced plans to acquire the Spyker Formula 1 autoracing team for €80 million (Rs448 crore) from Spyker Cars NV.
Epic Aircraft is a manufacturer of private business jets with single and twin engines, capable of carrying six to seven people.
The offices of Epic Aircraft, a subsidiary of Aircraft Investor Resources Llc. in Bend, Oregon, were closed for the weekend and Mint was unable to reach a company spokesperson to independently confirm Mallya’s proposed stake.
Said a person familiar with the development who didn’t want to be identified: “Mallya recently flew to US in his private jet and met Epic Aircraft CEO Rick Schrameck to sign this deal.”
Specialist aircraft websites have been abuzz with the prospects of a deal between Mallya and Epic Aircraft based on their conversations at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture airshow in Wisconsin though, at that time, neither the deal value nor the nature of the proposed investment were discussed by either company.
This same person, while declining to elaborate on any terms of the deal, said that a joint announcement by Mallya and Schrameck is expected by the end of this month.
One potential announcement date is the US National Business Aviation Association Annual Meeting and Convention, in Atlanta, Georgia, starting 25 September, where Epic Aircraft is slated to discuss details of some of its aircraft being certified by Canada. The company has said it expects its single-engine turboprop, dubbed Epic Dynasty, to be certified by Canada in 2008, and hopes to get key US Federal Aviation Administration certification later.
A senior United Breweries Group executive, who didn’t want to be named, also confirmed the Epic Aircraft investment, but said that the proposed investment is in Mallya’s personal capacity and has nothing to do, officially, with UB Group or its subsidiary, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
“Apart from civil aviation interests in Kingfisher Airlines, Mallya has special interest in general aviation, especially in corporate jets,” notes another UB Group official. Mallya typically flies using his private Airbus Corporate Jet, a reconfigured A319 aircraft.
Epic Aircraft had recently entered into the very light jet (VLJ) space, offering high-end business jets. According to recent statements from the company, it has secure orders for some $63 million worth of its aircraft at two recent shows in Florida and Wisconsin, where the company introduced its VLJs, the single-engine Victory and the twin-engine Elite. The aircraft are powered by engines from Williams International and Pratt & Whitney.
The flamboyant Mallya, whose companies have been on an acquisition spree, has made other personal investments as well. He is investing in resorts under the brand name VJM Resorts (P) Ltd and is in the process of identifying resort locations in Kerala and the Lakshadweep islands.
Meanwhile, Mallya said he formed a consortium with Spyker director Michiel Mol to bid for the financially troubled Spyker team. Formula 1 is the world’s most popular auto racing event. The Mallya-promoted investment company Watson Ltd and Mol’s Strongwind made a joint bid for the Silverstone, England-based team. Spyker’s board accepted the offer and the prospective buyers are slated to finish their due diligence in about 30 days.