Ocean Sky pushes throttles full forward

 - May 4, 2010, 11:55 AM

Ocean Sky is accelerating its plans to become a major international business aviation services group with the acquisition this month of FBO operations in Spain and Italy. The UK-based company has just completed the takeover of Spain’s Aviation Handling Assistance (AHA) and has signed a letter of intent to buy a controlling stake in Euroloa, an established FBO at Bologna in Italy.

The AHA deal adds three FBOs in Spain to Ocean Sky’s growing network, which soon will include 13 bases around Europe. These bases are in Ibiza, Valencia and Mahon (on the island of Menorca).

Ocean Sky CEO Stephen Grimes told AIN that before the end of this year
the company will add three more FBOs in Spain. They will be located in major Spanish cities that have yet to be disclosed.

In Italy, Ocean Sky has also bought a company called Open Sky Italy and this will become the legal foundation for its new Italian subsidiary. It will trade as Ocean Sky Italy once the acquisition process is complete, expected by the end of May.

Many foreign and Italian companies have tried to develop Italy’s ground-handling infrastructure only to find their efforts are blocked by airports and authorities that are breaching European Union competition rules in order to protect local vested interests. Grimes acknowledged that it is necessary to tap local expertise to expand in Italy, where it wants to open at least two more FBOs. “There are examples of companies breaking monopolies there, and we are comfortable that now is the right time [to open businesses in Italy],” said Grimes.

Ocean Sky (Booth No. 1449) is holding advanced negotiations to open further FBOs in two other major European countries. All its facilities will be refurbished and rebranded under the name Ocean Sky Jet Centre, which it already uses for its British FBOs at London Luton Airport, Manchester and Prestwick (in Scotland).

Ocean Sky is also stepping up efforts to expand its maintenance, repair and overhaul business. It wants to establish two or three factory-authorized service centers by year-end to add to the Bombardier facility it already operates at Luton.

The ambitious Ocean Sky business plan, which was recently boosted by a capital injection of almost $16 million from its shareholders, also calls for its fleet of managed aircraft to increase from 30 to 40 by the end of the year. Grimes also said that charter activity is picking up, especially in the large jet sector.

The company’s fleet currently consists of 18 aircraft on its UK and German commercial air operator certificates and a dozen jets operated purely for their private owners. The types operated include a mix of Gulfstream and Bombardier aircraft, as well as an Airbus ACJ, some Cessna Citations and a Dassault Falcon 900. Last year, Ocean Sky bought a controlling stake in German operator Triple Alpha.
Ocean Sky is owned by Belgian businessman Jean-Francois Cordemans and a Luxembourg-based investment fund.