“We will take each one as it comes,” was how Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) promoter Vijay Mallya responded when queried about the possibility of other banks likely to follow suit in the wake of United Bank of India declaring him a wilful defaulter.
Interacting with press persons at the annual general meeting of United Breweries Ltd (UBL), of which he is the chairman, here on Thursday, Mr. Mallya said this even while observing that there is no point indulging in speculation.
As regards the United Bank of India action, he said: “We strongly deny the allegations made… disagree with the findings of their grievance redressal committee… will pursue all legal remedies available. I have a great faith in the judicial system in our country.” Besides Mr.Mallya, the bank, which has an exposure of between Rs.350 crore and Rs.400 crore to KFA, declared three directors of the airlines wilful defaulters. The loan was extended by the Bangalore branch of the bank.
On whether joint venture partners, Heineken (in UBL) and Diageo (United Spirits Ltd) have raised concern, he said: “These issues have not been raised with me and as I said it is premature to speculate.”
About the possibility of liquor being brought under Goods and Services Tax, Mr. Mallya said he was in favour of such a move. Noting it is a very large industry, very large employer, as well as one of the highest contributors to State revenues, he said excluding beverage alcohol from GST would have very large financial impact on the industry.
With regard to Kerala’s decision to impose prohibition, he said Kerala is a large [liquor] consuming State. However, each State has a right to impose whatever policy it so chooses, particularly on the alcoholic beverage industry. In Kerala it is only a roadmap over ten years.
“I don’t believe in prohibition… there is sufficient evidence to prove prohibition has not succeeded anywhere not even in countries like the US. Prohibition also leads to lot of ill effects such as smuggling across borders, illicit and spurious production of alcohol. It is not in the public interest, not in the interest of public health,” he said. Given that it is a significant contributor to the revenues of the Kerala government “I am sure those revenues could be put to productive use for socio-economic welfare schemes.”
About Heineken, the single largest shareholder, raising its stake in UBI, Mr.Mallya said: “We are not sellers and Heineken are not buyers.”