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StandardAero talking sale, merger with U.K. company

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THE owner of StandardAero has confirmed the company is in preliminary talks with a large British aerospace firm about a possible merger or sale.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) Ltd. confirmed it is in preliminary discussions with BBA Aviation plc regarding "a potential combination of certain parts of its business."

History of changes

  • 1911: Company founded in Winnipeg. It had a series of owners over the decades, including Federal Industries Ltd. in the late 1980s and into the '90s. -- Early '90s: Purchased by British conglomerate BTR Aerospace Group.
  • 1998: British private equity firm Doughty Hanson acquired Standard Aero and three other British manufacturing companies (called Dunlop Standard Ltd.) for $835 million.
  • 2004: Acquired by U.S. private equity firm The Carlyle Group for $670 million.
  • 2007: DAE acquired Standard Aero as well as U.S.-based Landmark Aviation from Carlyle for a total of $1.9 billion, which included about $1.1 billion for Standard Aero.

Steve Kelley, a spokesman for StandardAero, which is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., said the discussions are being handled out of DAE's offices in Dubai.

"There is really nothing I can say about the matter," Kelley said.

DAE, which is partly owned by the government of Dubai, is not providing any other details.

StandardAero's largest operation is in Winnipeg, where its gas turbine engine maintenance, repair and overhaul operation employees about 1,400 people. DAE employs about 4,000 in total.

The company operates out several locations around the Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, occupying about 700,000 square feet of space.

It also operates a newly built 120,000-square-foot, $50-million cold-weather large-engine testing facility in co-operation with GE on the airport property.

In addition to StandardAero, DAE owns and operates an aircraft leasing operation.

When DAE was formed in 2006, it was extremely well capitalized and had an ambitious plan to amass assets that would make it a major player in aerospace sectors such as engineering and finance.

The company went on a massive, multi-billion-dollar spending spree soon after forming in a bid to acquire a sizable fleet of corporate jets it would lease to third-party aviation operators.

Those spending intentions were dramatically curtailed when the global financial markets went into a tailspin in 2008.

Six years ago, it paid just over $1 billion for StandardAero and paid another $800 million for Landmark Aviation, an airframe repair and aircraft avionics and interior refurbishing company. Both had been owned at the time by U.S. private equity firm The Carlyle Group.

There were reports in 2010 that DAE was looking to find a buyer for StandardAero, but no results emerged from that effort.

Reuters reported Monday any sale of DAE assets would join a series of asset disposals by Dubai, which is looking to raise money to repay about $50 billion of debt that matures over the next three years.

StandardAero also operates aircraft completion and renovation businesses with locations throughout the U.S. It has annual revenue of about $1.6 billion.

BBA Aviation specializes in providing aircraft services such as refuelling, baggage handling and de-icing.

Although based in London, England, BBA Aviation earns three-quarters of its profits in the American market.

Quoting unnamed sources, the U.K.'s Sunday Times newspaper suggests the deal could be worth in the neighbourhood of $2.1 billion for StandardAero.

That's about twice the amount DAE paid for the assets when it acquired them in 2007.

The company does not publicly release financial statements, but StandardAero's gas turbine maintenance, repair and overhaul operation, which is effectively based in Winnipeg, is generally viewed as a solid business unit, although it is unclear just how profitable it is.

BBA Aviation has its own engine repair and overhaul business, which it operates under several names including Dallas Airmotive, H + S Aviation and Premium Turbines.

BBA has about 12,000 employees in more than 200 locations around the world. In 2012, it produced about $2.2 billion in revenue.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2013 B4

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