Waive surcharge of United Airways

PM asks ministry

There is finally a ray of hope for reviving the now-defunct United Airways as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given instructions to waive the huge amounts of surcharge the airline owes to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB).

The prime minister came up with this instruction while Professor Shibli Rubayat-Ul-Islam, chairman of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC), called on her at the latter's office on Wednesday.

"We have been trying to revive United Airways, a listed company in the stock market. We spoke to the prime minister several times in this regard as 97 per cent of the company's shareholders are general people. Finally, the premier wanted to know what our plan is to do so," Islam said.

"I told her that we want to revive the airline as a cargo operator as new clients have started contacting us in that regard. They will use the airline as a cargo carrier," he added.

Islam also said the new clients plan to sell the company's old aircrafts and purchase new cargo aircraft.

"But we couldn't bring buyers as the airline owes several crores of taka to the CAAB as surcharge," he said, adding that they have requested the prime minister to give instructions to the respective ministries to waive the surcharge.

The BSEC chairman also said those who will buy the airline will pay the principal dues the airline owes to the CAAB.

The premier then instantly asked her secretary to give instructions to the respective ministry in this regard, Islam added.

Asked, ATM Nazrul Islam, managing director of United Airways, said it is good news that the prime minister has taken initiative to waive the surcharge.

"It was the main obstacle behind reviving the airline as CAAB would get huge amounts of money from the airline as surcharge while the principal amount is around Tk 60 crore," he added.

According to the BSEC, its net due to the CAAB is around Tk 56.87 crore, with a value-added tax of Tk 5.65 crore and an income tax of Tk 2 lakh.

The remaining Tk 292.81 crore was counted as a surcharge at an annual rate of 72 per cent. The debt is swelling every year due to the compound surcharge method. The BSEC said the airline cannot pay the debt as it currently has nothing but a few unusable aircraft.

To look into the reasons for the private airline's collapse, the stock market regulator had formed an inquiry committee on September 5 as a last-ditch attempt to restart its operations.

The commission intends to conduct an investigation into the issues surrounding the suspension of operations, reconstruction of the board of directors, resumption of operations, and trading pattern of United Airways securities since its debut on the stock exchanges.

Meanwhile, the BSEC recently decided to appoint a special auditor to conduct a special audit of United Airway's financial statements for fiscal years 2012 to 2021.

Established in 2005, the company was listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) in 2010. In February 2016, it ceased flight operations without any announcement amid mounting losses due to massive irregularities and corruption by its directors.

To revive the airline, the BSEC took a series of measures. Its board was restructured on February 28, 2021, and eight independent directors were appointed on March 4 that year.

In January last year, the company was sent to the over the counter (OTC) market due to its terrible performance.


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