Kingfisher lands in soup; auditor questions viability
Kingfisher Airlines has found itself short of answers after its auditor raised doubts about the company's ability to stay in business for long.
Kingfisher shares fell more than 5 percent on Thursday to a low of Rs 24.8, hovering close to its year-low of Rs 23.35, after its auditor raised doubts about the company's ability to stay in business for long.
The company's audit firm, BK Ramadhyani & Co, said in its remarks published in the company's annual report that Kingfisher's ability to stay in business will depend on its promoters being able to maintain a steady flow of funds into the company. It also said the company has not deposited with the government, money collected from employees as tax deducted at source and Provident Fund contributions.
Kingfisher has accumulated losses of Rs 4321 crore, which is more than 50 percent of the company's total networth at the end of financial year 2010-11.
The company however defended its financial health. "It is incorrect to say that Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) auditors have raised serious doubts about the survival of the Airline," Ravi Nedungadi, CFO of UB Group, of which Kingfisher is a part, said in a statement, The Economic Times reported.
He also added that as per RBI directives, Kingfisher's lenders had made an independent assessment of the airline's viability.
"During the year, RBI had directed the banks to independently assess the viability of KFA and this was in fact, carried out by the lenders with the assistance of SBI Capital Markets confirming that KFA is viable i.e. as a going concern," the airline said in an e-mail to Reuters.
Though the lenders showed confidence in the company, investors admitted the auditor's report was a cause of concern."Clearly, the auditor is sceptical of the "going concern" credentials of Kingfisher Airlines," said Neeraj Monga, executive VP of Toronto-based Veritas Investment Research, in a report dated 12 September on the company's accounting policies.
The company has also reportedly defaulted on its loans to banks and private institutions.
The airline has not posted profit since its inception in 2005. For the quarter ended June, Kingfisher widened its net loss by 43 percent to Rs 264 crore.
The term "going concern", in accounting parlance, refers to a company's ability to continue operations in the near future.
The annual report has been posted on the Bombay Stock Exchange website.
The auditor's comments come at a juncture when Indian carriers are struggling despite a booming aviation market. All three major carriers Kingfisher, Air India and Jet Airways are loss-making as prices of key inputs like crude remain volatile, and consequently are unable to raise equity.
In late August, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd said its board had approved a rights issue of shares to raise up to Rs 2000 crore ($434 million).
The company gave no timing or details of the proposed issue, but analysts say raising funds for an airline company is not going to be easy.
"Resolutions have been taken, but its been three years since the airline industry has not been able to raise funds at all," said Mahantesh Sabarad, sector analyst at Fortune Equity Brokers.
The CAG also said there have been some delays in remitting some statutory dues, pertaining to provident fund, fringe benefit tax, investor education and protection fund and employees' state insurance.
Earlier this year, the carrier had cut its debt through a debt restructuring process in which the airline issued 116.3 million shares to a consortium of 13 banks led by State Bank of India, after conversion of compulsory convertible preference shares at Rs 64.48 a share.
The airline had restructured its debt by converting almost Rs 1200 crore of loans into equity and its debt stands at about Rs 6000 crore at end April.
With inputs from Reuters
Around 3,000 employees of the near-bankrupt Kingfisher Airlines were left in the dark on Diwali after the management failed to pay their May salary, despite its commitment that their dues will be cleared by the festival.
The airline failed to submit financial recovery plans to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and has also extended the temporary shutdown of its entire fleet till 23 October.