Carlyle Opts Out of Signature Aviation Bid, Buys Repair Unit

Carlyle Group Inc. is planning to bow out of the bidding for Signature Aviation Plc, opting instead to acquire a unit of the private-jet base operator.

StandardAero Holding Corp., a U.S. aircraft-maintenance firm backed by Carlyle, agreed to buy Signature’s engine repair and overhaul business for $230 million, according to a statement Wednesday. Carlyle isn’t currently planning to bid for the whole company, which accepted an offer earlier this month from a rival investor group including billionaire Bill Gates, people familiar with the matter said.

The exit of the private-equity firm helps clear the path for Blackstone Group Inc., Global Infrastructure Partners and Gates, which agreed to buy the company for $4.7 billion. The private-jet firm had previously said it was keeping its options open as the investors fought it out.

Signature said in January it had received an approach from Carlyle, though no proposal had been received. Carlyle has never formally said whether it has given up its pursuit and no final decisions have been made, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

Signature shares fell 0.5% to 401.8 pence as of 11:17 a.m. in London. Representatives for the business and Carlyle declined to comment.

Talks on the sale of the broader company began in the first half of 2020 as the popularity of private flying grew amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gates owns about 19% of Signature, a carbon-heavy aviation investment that contrasts with his divestment from fossil-fuel companies.

Those that lost out on Signature could now turn their attention to aircraft-services provider Atlantic Aviation, which is being sold by Macquarie Infrastructure Corp., Bloomberg News reported last month. That business could fetch as much as $4 billion, including debt, people familiar said at the time.

Signature has been seeking a buyer for the engine-repair business since 2018, and expects to receive $140 million of net proceeds from the sale, after deducting change-of-control fees and transaction costs. The disposal is expected to close this year, subject to regulatory approvals.

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