Ocean Sky builds European network

 - May 27, 2010, 10:52 AM

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

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

Ocean Sky CEO Stephen Grimes told AIN that the company will add three more FBOs in Spain before the end of this year. These 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 Ocean Sky’s new Italian subsidiary. It will trade as Ocean Sky Italy once the acquisition process is complete, expected by the end of last month.

Many foreign and Italian companies have tried to develop Italy’s ground handling infrastructure only to find airports and authorities breaching European Union competition rules to block their efforts in order to protect local vested interests.
Grimes acknowledged that it is necessary to tap local expertise to expand in Italy, where it now 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 is now holding advanced negotiations to open further FBOs in two other major European countries. All its FBOs 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).

Expansion of Services

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 approximately $16 million from its shareholders, also calls for its fleet of managed aircraft to grow from 30 to 40 by the end of this year. Grimes said that charter activity is picking up, especially in the large jet sector.

The 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-François Cordemans and a Luxembourg-based investment fund.