Signature Aviation, which operates Signature Flight Support, the world’s largest FBO chain, could soon be under new ownership. The UK-based company has accepted a cash deal worth more than $4.63 billion from Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). This comes as a bidding war involving other investment firms such as the Carlyle Group, which previously owned the former Landmark Aviation FBO chain, has begun to heat up.
Last month, private equity group Blackstone Infrastructure Advisors and Blackstone Core Equity Management Associates presented Signature with a $4 billion offer, and there was recent chatter that Cascade Investment—which manages much of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates’s personal fortune and a nearly 20 percent stake in Signature—joined with Blackstone to strengthen its bid. Signature’s share price has more than doubled since December when word began to leak of the possible sale of the company, which has more than 200 locations worldwide.
However, Signature announced to shareholders that its board of directors has reached an agreement with GIP, which had improved on the amount of a previously issued bid, on the terms of a recommended cash acquisition. GIP manages $71 billion in assets and the Signature purchase will be handled under Bidco, a recently established Delaware limited-liability company. Included are the FBO chain and its Epic Fuels subsidiary, as well as the company's engine repair business that it has been attempting to unload. "Signature has identified the engine repair and overhaul business as non-core and has an ongoing process to pursue the divestment of this business," the company said. "Bidco is supportive of this initiative."
The deal is subject to legal review and the approval of at least 75 percent of Signature's shareholders.