Signature Aviation Blesses $4.3 Billion Blackstone Approach

Signature Aviation Plc said it will accept a $4.3 billion buyout from Blackstone Group Inc. if the U.S. private-equity firm makes a solid offer.

The U.K. company, whose No.1 shareholder is Bill Gates, would accept the $5.17-a-share price made in an approach by Blackstone, according to a statement Monday. The offer represents the U.S. firm’s sixth proposal to buy Signature Aviation, the world’s leading operator of private jet bases.

A lower bid from Global Infrastructure Partners was already rejected and both suitors were given 28 days to issue formal proposals or withdraw. The Blackstone offer represents a premium of 44% compared with the closing price on Dec. 16, before the Blackstone approach was announced.

Signature Aviation shares advanced 1.4% to 374 pence as of 9:24 a.m. in London, giving the company a market value of about 3.1 billion pounds ($4.1 billion).

Private flying has benefited from the coronavirus pandemic, offering the well-heeled the opportunity to continue traveling while minimizing potentially risky contact with other passengers.

Signature said discussions between the parties are ongoing and there is no certainty an offer will be made or on what terms.

Takeover Target

Signature, which changed its name from BBA Aviation last year, traces its origins back to a Scottish industrial company founded in 1879. Its had several names since and has focused on private aviation in recent years, selling parts distributor Ontic last year for $1.4 billion.

The company has also made several acquisitions, buying rival Landmark Aviation for $2.1 billion from Carlyle Group LP in 2016, and acquiring Epic Fuels for $88 million in 2018.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Gates became an investor in 2009 and now holds the biggest stake through Cascade Investment LLC, according to Bloomberg data.

Signature had become a more likely takeover target since simplifying and selling its Ontic unit, Citi analyst Charles Mortimer wrote last week.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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