Ukrainian Oligarch Takes To The Sky

KIEV, Ukraine -- Igor Kolomoisky, a multi-billionaire with roots in Ukraine’s lucrative industry and energy sectors, took a major step towards forming a new European airline on Friday.

Igor Kolomoisky

Shareholders of Climber Sterling, the financially troubled Danish airline, approved a share issue that will bring Kolomoisky in as a strategic investor with a majority stake.

Kolomoisky is believed to have paid just over $30 million for majority control over the debt-laden airline.

In a statement to shareholders, Climber’s management said that Kolomoisky’s arrival as a shareholder through Mansvell Enterprises, his Cyprus-registered investment vehicle, was more than a step towards keeping the Danish airline up in the air.

The management at Climber Sterling wrote in a letter to shareholders ahead of the vote approving the decision that Kolomoisky plans “to use Climber Sterling as a platform for establishing a larger Nordic airline in collaboration with the two Swedish-based airlines, Skyways and City Airline, already taken over by Mansvell.”

Control over the three regional European airlines, which operate dozens of Embraer, Fokker and MD brand aircrafts, could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kolomoisky’s plans.

According to Climber, Kolomoisky also owns leading airlines whose routes stretch from Ukraine to other former Soviet countries, Europe and the Middle East.

“Igor Kolomoisky, who also holds interests in Ukrainian aviation through interests in companies such as Aerosvit and Dniproavia, … is also the principal shareholder of a number of Portuguese-based leasing companies,” Climber said its letter.

Aerosvit currently operates a fleet of 16 short-range Boeing 737 and seven longer-range Boeing 767 passenger aircraft.

Along with its smaller Ukrainian airline partners, including Dniproavia, the group also carries passengers on Airbus 320-class aircraft, Embraer 321, 145 and 195s, as well as Ukrainian An-148 planes.

But there could be yet more to this up-and-coming airline tycoon.

Earlier this month, a Latvian publication called NRA, reported that Kolomoisky could, after closing the Climber acquisition, be eyeing air Baltica.

Kolomoisky was not immediately available to comment on his plans. Calls to his mobile went unanswered.

And so, the question in the minds of many airline top managers is: could this Ukrainian known for having deep pockets have plans to consolidate all these regional carriers into one of Europe’s next big low-cost airline?

Source: FT