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Strike-hit airline grounds flights

Kingfisher Airlines has grounded flights for at least three days after a violent strike over unpaid wages at the cash-strapped Indian carrier.

The company said it had been forced to declare a lockout after "unabated incidents of violence, criminal intimidation, assault" by disgruntled employees who have been intimidating their colleagues.

Flights will be halted until at least Thursday.

Chief executive Sanjay Aggarwal met India's airline regulator today.

After the talks, he told reporters that Kingfisher would decide on Thursday whether to resume flights and said the airline planned to pay staff "in the next few days".

Mr Aggarwal said half of Kingfisher's employees have received their salary, though he forfeited his. "I get the last cheque," he said.

The disruption is likely to hamper the money-losing carrier's efforts to attract much-needed new investment. Its share price plunged 4.8% yesterday, taking its slide for the year so far to 27%.

India's aviation minister, Ajit Singh, has warned Kingfisher over safety compliance since its engineers are on strike and said the company must deploy at least five aircraft in its fleet in order to maintain its licence, the Press Trust of India reported.

The company lists 12 aircraft in its fleet on its website. That is down from 66 in March 2011, according to its annual report.

Kingfisher posted a loss of 6.5 billion rupees (£76.7 million) in the quarter ending June. Its total debt as of March 2012 was 87.3 billion rupees (£1.03 billion), according to FactSet, a financial information provider.

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