Gama Aviation’s growth path could see it expanding its footprint with newly acquired FBOs in multiple locations in a bid to boost the ground support side of a portfolio that is already strong in aircraft management and charter, as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul. The UK-based group has been diversifying for the past 16 or so years and took significant leaps forward when it expanded its capital base with private equity investors in 2008, and then again in early 2015 when it implemented a reverse takeover of Hangar8 plc.
“We believe we have a viable, proven business model that can deliver good yields and performance, all of which is predicated on providing a high-touch and high quality service level in a heavily-regulated industry,” said Gama CEO Marwan Khalek.
On April 21, Gama (Booth V045) reported strong financial performance in its first published results as a public company since it combined its business with Hangar8. For the year ending December 31, 2015, the UK-based group achieved revenues of $413.1 million (15.1 percent up on the previous year), gross profits of $62.4 million (27.6 percent up) and a gross profit margin of 15.1 percent (compared with 13.6 percent).
Commenting on the results, Khalek indicated that the group may be looking to make more acquisitions that may range from “small bolt–on acquisitions to larger and more transformational ones.” Earlier this year, Gama bought the Aviation Beauport FBO on the island of Jersey. The company also cited strong revenue and margin improvements from its U.S. operations, including the flights it operates for private aviation membership program Wheels Up.
It has also invested further in its new Glasgow base by opening a second hangar there earlier this year, and in April it signed a contract for a hangar facility in Nice, France, which is just over an hour’s drive from Geneva. “It’s an interesting bizav entry point, and movements can get intense there,” the company told AIN.
While consensus in the business aviation community seems to be that 2016 has made a shaky start in terms of trading conditions, Khalek is not unduly concerned. “We have been through several recessions and 2008 and 2009 [at the height of the last financial crisis] were our fastest growth period,” he told AIN. “Hangar8 made a lot of sense to us because it gave us a public platform and all we’ve done since then is to continue implementing our strategy of trying to grow organically and through more acquisitions. The business model is fundamentally robust and we’ve tried to eliminate risk elements in terms of asset exposure and costs.
Diverse activities also have been a key to stability in uncertain times. For instance, though very visible, charter only accounts for around 5 percent of Gama’s revenues. “We are spread across many geographical areas and profit centers, we have hedged,” said Khalek. “Europe continues to be a very challenging market as our business tracks GDP, which tracks [consumer] confidence. The sentiment is subdued and we have put out a cautious message about organic growth in Europe. But we are very bullish about the U.S. and we’re planting seeds in the Middle East and Far East that we will help us to hedge the risk [of decline in other markets].”
Gama’s role as operating partner to the Wheels Up private flight membership provider has generated significant activity. “Just over half of our U.S. fleet is involved and it represents about 35 to 40 percent of the [U.S. charter] revenue stream,” said Khalek. He also sees scope to boost Gama’s ground services business in the U.S., with line maintenance capability at seven or eight locations.