No takers for Kingfisher House as price 'too high'

An online auction of one of Vijay Mallya's flagship properties in Mumbai, Kingfisher House, opened and closed today without any bidders.

The base price of Rs150 crore for the office at Andheri in Mumbai's western suburbs was "too high", say observers.

The e-auction was managed by an arm of the state-run State Bank of India, leader of a consortium of 17 banks trying to recover around Rs9,000 crore loaned to Mallya's defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

The auction took place a day before Mallya has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning as part of an investigation related to one of the bank loans (See: Auction on for Kingfisher House, base price Rs150 cr)

Sources in the Enforcement Directorate, which has summoned Mallya, say "it has to be a personal appearance, he can't send his lawyer". But Mallya is reportedly in the UK.

His Kingfisher Airlines never made a profit despite once being the country's second-biggest carrier, and it stopped operating in 2012.

"I am not an absconder," the businessman tweeted last week. But it remains to be seen whether he obeys the ED summons.

The banks had asked the Supreme Court to stop Mallya from travelling abroad but the government told the court that he had left the country on 2 March.

On a request from the banks, a court recently put on hold the payment of $75 million (Rs515 crore) by Diageo to Mallya as part of a settlement under which the liquor baron would step down as the chairman of United Spirits.

Ranked the 45th-richest Indian with a net worth of $1 billion by Forbes in March 2012, Mallya is known to have lavish homes in Mumbai, Goa, Delhi and also London. His flamboyant lifestyle also features a fleet of luxury cars and a yacht.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was targeted by the Congress in parliament over the tycoon's "escape", said, "Every penny from Mallya will be recovered." He did not say how.