Vijay Mallya, chairman, United Breweries Holdings, has bought a 50 per cent strategic stake in Epic Aircraft for $120 million (about Rs 480 crore), according to a statement by the UB Group.
Mallya, whose UB Group owns the full-service carrier Kingfisher Airlines and also has a 26 per cent in Deccan Aviation (which owns budget carrier Air Deccan), has made the investment in Epic in his personal capacity.
Epic Aircraft, a unit of Aircraft Investor Resources LLC, manufactures private business jets with single and twin engines, capable of carrying six to seven people.
While Mallya's initial focus would be on the US market, which is the largest with 11,000 of 14,000 business jets in the world, he will also use this acquisition to tap the business jets market in India.
As India Inc looks to acquire assets abroad, its CEOs are looking for corporate jets that will fly them to destinations quicker and more comfortably.
Last year, licenses were given to 100 people for import of private jets. India has about 150 business jets and it is expected that about 500 would be added in the next 4-5 years.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has yet to certify Epic's planes. According to sources, Mallya plans to take the help of Airbus to speed up the certification process.
Epic Aircraft hopes that its single-engine turboprop, dubbed Epic Dynasty, will be certified by Canada next year, and it hopes to get certification from the US FAA thereafter.
Mallya has a special interest in general aviation and himself jets around the world in a private Airbus Corporate Jet, a reconfigured A319 aircraft.
Epic entered the very light jet segment recently and now offers high-end business jets.
According to reports, it has secured orders worth $63 million at two recent shows in the US, where the company introduced the VLJs, the single-engine Victory and the twin-engine Elite. The aircraft are powered by engines from Williams International and Pratt & Whitney.
This is Mallya's second personal acquisition after the 50 per cent stake in Dutch Formula 1 team Spyker.
It is said that he is also keen to invest in resorts and is in the process of identifying locations in Kerala and the Lakshadweep islands.