Basic Element looks to spin off Kuban Airlines

Russian industrial holding Basic Element has put off renewing the fleet of Kuban Airlines and is seeking a partner to which it can spin-off the carrier, as the company focuses on its airport business.

The conglomerate's management intended to refleet the enlarged carrier which emerged from Kuban's merger with Moscow-based low-cost operator SkyExpress. It operates two Airbus A319s, three Boeing 737s and six Yakovlev Yak-42s, with several Yak-42s in storage, according to Denis Ilyin, who heads the aviation directorate at Basic Element.

He says: "To replace Yak-42s, we planned to acquire five to eight Airbus jets before the summer season but have decided to ensure Kuban's operational stability rather than push ahead with its fleet renewal." The integrated carrier has renegotiated a $10 million debt to Moscow Vnukovo airport, with instalments continuing until 2016, while its arrears to aircraft lessors are manageable and not critical, says Ilyin. He adds: "Basic Element is prepared to prop up Kuban Airlines in its current format but needs to invest substantially to develop it. At the same time, our main interest today is the airport business."  

Basic Element's airport operating arm, Basel Aero, has begun airport improvement projects in Krasnodar and Anapa, after completing modernisation at Sochi and Gelendzhik airports. Director Sergey Likharev says it aims to provide for a doubling in combined capacity to 11 million passengers by 2016. "In Krasnodar alone, this requires building a 60,000m² terminal at a cost of $300 million. In addition, we're exploring opportunities to expand our airport activities in other regions," says Likharev. 

 To free up its resources, Basel Aero is seeking to dispose of Kuban as a non-core asset. Ilyin says: "We want a senior specialist to handle the carrier on its own or jointly with us." He indicates that talks to this end have already been held with Aeroflot and UTAir, which is particularly interested in increasing its presence in southern Russia.

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