Alexey Isaikin, the owner of the Volga-Dnepr aviation conglomerate, is exiting the group and handing the reins to management. The Russian entrepreneur’s plan was confirmed by a speaker of the Group. He said that Mr. Isaikin is getting rid of his entire stakes in all of the Group’s entities. The intended change of ownership is a precondition to saving Volga-Dnepr and Co. from bankruptcy. Once legally ensured, the conglomerate could restart doing business outside Russia, based on a new AOC. Provided the plan comes to fruition, it would immunize the enterprise from being sanctioned by Western countries.
Until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, followed by tough Western sanctions, Volga-Dnepr Airlines was one of the world's leading providers of heavy and oversized air cargo transports, including
scheduled air services by its subsidiaries AirBridgeCargo (ABC), and ATRAN. Stakes of 51% in these three companies are owned by Volga-Dnepr-Moskva LLC which, in turn, is wholly owned by
Netherlands-based Volga-Dnepr Logistics B.V. Until now, the entire Group’s parent was the Alpine Prosperity Foundation, located in tax haven Liechtenstein, with Mr. Isaikin being its sole
However, beginning in March, Western sanctions crippled the aviation Group’s operations. Due to the flight and landing bans imposed by the U.S., EU, Japan, and some others, most of the markets served by the Group in the past were barred. This made its business model, based on international air transport, obsolete. The first signs of an ongoing cash-leak became apparent a few weeks ago, when AirBridgeCargo's European employees were told, in a letter from Moscow headquarters, to seek a new job. Followed, last Tuesday (09AUG22), by the announcement that the vast majority of B747 freighter pilots had been given notice to leave. A progressive demise of the entire group became obvious, which Isaikin has now fueled with his announced withdrawal.
Phoenix out of the ashes?
But only at first glance. A closer look shows that the plan seems to be to transfer the four Boeing 747-400 F and twelve 747-8 F to the AOC of Arabian carrier, Etihad Airways. This would allow future Abu Dhabi-based “phoenix-AirBridgeCargo” to resume operations to Europe and North America. However, since the B747-Fs are leased, they will be chained immediately should they land outside Russia or China. Isaikin would therefore have to buy the freighters from the lessors or negotiate new contracts to keep them in service.
Volga-Dnepr Group’s future fate remains exciting
The situation is different for the Antonov An-124 freighters. They belong to the Volga-Dnepr Group, but are also subject to international sanctions, which severely limits their operational capabilities.
In itself, the transfer of Mr. Isaikin’s stakes to Volga-Dnepr Management, does not affect the sanctions regime. After all, for Russia licensed passenger and cargo aircraft most of the sky remains fully closed, regardless of their ownership.
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