Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Nov 28, 2004
Foreign Direct Investment
Logistics - Airlines
Info-Tech - Telecommunications
Virgin keen to invest in airlines, telecom
New Delhi , Nov. 27
WHEN someone as colourful as the Chairman of the Virgin group, Sir Richard Branson, comes visiting there is bound to be some fun and games.
But unlike the previous official visit in 2000 when the flavour was all Indian what with Mr Branson alighting from the first direct flight of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) at Indira Gandhi International Airport here dressed in a traditional Punjabi dress, a press conference here on Saturday saw the group showing an interest in investing in the domestic airlines and mobile sectors.
"We are in talks with one or two existing airlines and also with some who plan to set up. We would look at picking up a stake of between 25-49 per cent and will get involved to create the best airlines at the most competitive rate. The Group or I personally may invest in the aviation sector. In the telecommunication business, we are in negotiations with about four parties. The negotiations are in early stages. It is very likely that the airlines will come first," said Sir Richard.
Interestingly, currently the Indian Government does not allow foreign airlines to pick up a stake in domestic airlines.
However, Sir Richard refused to speculate on how much the Group planned to invest in the country apart from saying that India was a very important country for the Group.
Turning his attention to the operations of VAA, he said that it had applied to operate daily flights to both Delhi and Mumbai and also to Bangalore.
"We will know next week whether we are successful or not. We hope to be able to offer more services to India within three months of next year," he added.
Sir Richard also praised the Indian Prime Minister and Government saying he was "delighted" that the new Government's first decision was to almost completely open up the skies between India and the UK apart from taking on British Airways who he claimed made "obscene" profit of close to $0.5 billion from proposed increased operations to India.
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