India’s embattled Sahara conglomerate said it wants to sell its 42.5 per cent stake in the Force India Formula One team to help release founder Subrata Roy from jail, but some motor racing insiders are sceptical about how easy it will be to find a buyer.
Sahara, which paid $100 million for the shareholding in 2011, sought the Supreme Court’s permission this month to dispose of Force India and other assets to raise a combined 53 billion Indian rupees ($778.38 million).
With Formula One far less popular than cricket in India, and Mallya under pressure from lenders to meet loan repayment obligations linked to his grounded Kingfisher Airlines, the stake on its own could be a hard sell.
Lenders who are owed more than $1 billion by Kingfisher have started putting up for sale some of the carrier’s assets. Kingfisher has not flown since 2012 due to a lack of cash.
Formula One has only 11 teams and any change of ownership, particularly if it might bring more funding, is of major interest to fans. Force India, the first and only Indian-registered team, have a loyal following – particularly in Mexico due to Mexican driver Sergio Perez.