DaimlerChrysler sells corporate aviation wing

 - March 9, 2007, 9:14 AM

Germany’s DaimlerChrysler AG has sold DaimlerChrysler Aviation, the group’s wholly owned Stuttgart-based corporate aviation subsidiary, to Fulda, Germany-based ATON, a family-owned group that makes long-term investments in innovative companies specializing in raw materials, services and applied technology. The deal marks ATON’s first foray into business aviation.

Jonas Kraft, DaimlerChrysler Aviation’s director for sales and marketing, told AIN that the sale is “part of the measures currently being taken to increase efficiency and optimize the group’s portfolio with the goal of improving the return on net assets.” He said the parties agreed to keep the purchase price confidential.

The DaimlerChrysler group is currently divesting itself of non-core activities. It has sold its 7.5-percent share in EADS and reorganized its Chrysler subsidiary, a shakeup that will eliminate 10,000 jobs.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of this month following approval from the Kartellamt, Germany’s Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and the country’s aviation authorities.

Kraft said that the transaction includes a long-term contract of undisclosed length to provide the DaimlerChrysler group with aviation services and would have no effect on activity. The deal includes maintaining the Airbus A319 ACJ shuttle between Stuttgart and Detroit, and keeping the owned and managed fleet, which is to be expanded. He said that ATON will keep the current workforce of 200 or so employees, including 55 pilots, and will likely add more.

Founded in 1998, DaimlerChrysler Aviation primarily provides tailored air transport services to business travelers and last year generated revenues of approximately E65 million ($84.5 million) from DaimlerChrysler Group companies as well as from third-party business, which accounts for 50 percent of activity. The majority of third-party customers originate in Germany, followed by clients from the UK, France, the U.S. and Russia.

Since January 2000 it has operated a regular nonstop connection between the DaimlerChrysler Group’s Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters and Detroit with a company-owned Airbus A319 ACJ configured for 48 passengers.

The division operates a fleet of 12 business jets, eight of which it owns. The rest are under management contracts. Eleven of the 12 are based in Stuttgart, with one Citation XLS based in Munich. Kraft said that DCA has also placed orders for an undisclosed number of aircraft but said they would be “aircraft of the same type as models already in the fleet,” the first of which is earmarked for delivery at the “end of this year or at the beginning of 2008.”

In January 2001 DaimlerChrysler Aviation moved to a new, specially designed hangar that brought all services together in one location that includes a main hall, an integrated check-in area, offices, conference rooms and a facility capable of maintaining all the types of aircraft in the fleet.