Signature Aviation, which runs the world’s largest network of FBOs, is to be acquired by investment company Global Infrastructure Partners in a deal which values the business aviation group at US$4.6 billion.
Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is a New York-based investment group that owns Edinburgh Airport in Scotland. It has also owned London City Airport and is co-owner of London Gatwick Airport in the UK.
Signature, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, employs 5,300 people at 350 locations around the world. Formerly known as BBA Aviation, the company pursued an aggressive acquisition strategy during the last decade, buying FBOs and rival aviation companies around the world to gain a presence at most of the world’s busiest private aviation airports.
The aviation group has been the subject of a bidding war since before Christmas between private equity firms Blackstone, which partnered with the Bill Gates-backed investment company Cascade on bids, and GIP. Signature’s directors recommended GIP’s offer yesterday at US$5.50 a share to its shareholders, a 51% premium over the company’s share price before Christmas.
Under UK-stock exchange rules other parties have until January 14 to make a counter offer. GIP has already indicated it intends to remove the company from the London Stock Exchange when it acquires the company.
Like other large companies in the private aviation sector, Signature’s FBOs have suffered a reduction in traffic because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, compared to commercial airlines the group is performing well and during the last year has continued to make acquisitions itself, such as TAG Aviation’s Swiss FBOs.
Signature has also opened new facilities in the last year and moved its environmental initiative forward, with the introduction of sustainable jet fuel at some locations.
Sir Nigel Rudd, chair of Signature said, “Over recent years, the management of Signature has created a leading global private aviation support services business, whilst streamlining the group to maximise value for shareholders. The resilient performance and strong financial position through the pandemic has enabled the Signature directors to consider its future and evaluate this offer from a position of strength.
“The Signature directors believe that the proposal provides clear benefits to Signature shareholders and GIP’s operational and financial resources will generate enhanced opportunities for our employees, and ensure continued high-quality, full service flight support for business and general aviation travel.”
Adebayo Ogunlesi, chairman and managing partner of GIP said, “As an experienced, long term infrastructure investor with a strong operational focus, we believe that we are the ideal partner for Signature going forward.
“We plan to put customer service, operational consistency and growth at the heart of our strategy supported by plans to continue to improve employee engagement and through targeted investment.”
Last month Business Airport International talked to chief operating officer of Signature Flight Support Tony Lefebvre about how the group has worked through the pandemic and its latest acquisitions and sustainability initiatives. Read the article here.