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Sep. 11, 2008
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Sky Express License in Danger
The AiRUnion crisis has spread to Sky Express, the discount airline in which Boris Abramovich also owns a blocking package. Evgeny Bachurin, head of federal regulator Rosaviatsia, gave the airline two weeks to get its 1-billion ruble debt under control, saying it would lose its license otherwise. The company is alarmed to find out that the federal agency sees a problem with its debt. Observers say Bachurin may be trying to insure himself against accusations of lying down on the job. Bachurin made his threat against Sky Express at a State Duma Transportation Committee session devoted to the AiRUnion crisis.
Sky Express is Russia�s first budget airline. Abramovich, who is general director of AiRUnion member KrasAir and a shareholder in other alliance airlines, stated in 2007 that he owns a 25-percent package in Sky Express. Another 20 percent belongs to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the remainder belongs to the Altima Partners and Robinson Funds and to individuals. Sky Express carried 680,000 passengers in 2007 on its fleet of nine Boeing 737�s. Its receipts in 2007 totaled 1.4 billion rubles and its net loss about 750 million rubles.

�We have no outstanding debt,� Sky Express general director Marin Bakulova told Kommersant. She added that the company has not received any warning from Rosaviatsia. Nor does the company have any bank credits. All of its debts, Bakulova said, are to suppliers. A source close to the company said that its largest debts are to Vnukovo Airport in Moscow and that airport�s fuel supplier, which is controlled by a group of the airport�s private shareholders headed by Vitaly Vantsev. Vantsev is the head of the anticrisis staff at AiRUnion.

Bachurin threatened Sky Express while explaining to a legislator why, after the collapse of KrasAir and DAL (another airline Abramovich is a shareholder in), Abramovich-connected airlines such as Sky Express continue to fly. Experts think Bachurin was simply covering himself against further accusations by the Prosecutor General�s Office, which last month charged that Rosaviatsia did nothing to prevent the current crisis. The ethics Bachurin�s statement are questionable. �It�s not the business of the government to settle the commercial debts of commercial companies,� observed Boris Rybak of the Infomost agency.

All the Article in Russian as of Sep. 11, 2008

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