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Thursday, May 16, 2002

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Qatar Petro seeks nod for airline jt venture with Gesco, UB Air

Ambarish Mukherjee


QATAR General Petroleum Corporation has sought permission from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for purchasing and subscribing up to 40 per cent stake in a non-scheduled airline company as a joint venture with two Indian partners, namely, Great Eastern Shipping Company Ltd (Gesco) and UB Air Private Ltd of Vijay Mallya's United Breweries group.

According to an application filed with FIPB, Qatar Petroleum will be the single largest shareholder in the joint venture company - - United Helicharters Private Ltd., with a 36 per cent stake while both Gesco and UB Air will have 26 per cent stake each. The remaining 12 per cent will be given to key employees.

The joint venture company will be involved in chartering helicopters and leasing them out to various offshore operators in India.

Qatar Petroleum already has a small presence in the Indian aviation sector through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Gulf Helicopters Company, which has leased out helicopters to both Gesco and UB Air.

The move was aimed at centralising and managing Qatar Petroleum's helicopter operations in India through a single company, Government officials said, and added that an agreement for setting up this joint venture company was signed in Doha on April 8 this year between the Minister for Energy and Industry of Qatar, Mr Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, and the Executive Deputy Chairman of Gesco, Mr Sudhir K Mulji.

Engaged in the business of owning and operating bulk carriers, tankers and a gamut of offshore support services including drilling activities, marine logistics and air logistics, Gesco also possesses a non-scheduled air transport operating permit through which it operates two helicopters leased out from Qatar Petroleum.

Simultaneously, UB Air is engaged in the business of conducting non-scheduled air operators and possesses a non-scheduled air transport operating permit through which it operates three helicopters leased out from Qatar Petroleum's aviation subsidiary.

UB Air also possesses a certificate of approval from the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) permitting it to carry out maintenance and certification of certain specified helicopters. These include the five helicopters leased out by Qatar Petroleum to Gesco and UB Air.

According to the application filed with FIPB by Qatar Petroleum, the joint venture company will provide helicopter services by rationalising the existing arrangements between the three partners, allowing a united and more efficient operation under a single non-scheduled air transport operating permit and to co-ordinate, maximise and build on their resources under a single management.

At present, the company has a no-objection certificate (NOC) to import and operate only three helicopters and will apply for at least two more helicopters in due course, the company has informed FIPB in its application.

FIPB will take up the case for consideration at its meeting scheduled for Thursday.

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