October 21, 2013
Beechcraft reportedly has instructed Credit Suisse to approach prospective buyers, including Cessna Aircraft, just months after the manufacturer emerged from an extensive Chapter 11 reorganization.
“I’ve heard that rumor,” Beechcraft’s executive vice president, sales and marketing Shawn Vick told Aviation Week. “We are not in the business of responding to rumors – and that’s all it is.”
Beechcraft is not commenting further on the Bloomberg report, but CEO Bill Boisture last summer noted to Aviation Week that three of the company’s major shareholders specialize in distressed properties. With that in mind, he said, it was reasonable to wonder if they are long-term owners. Talking to Aviation Week, one senior Beechcraft executive added, “Am I surprised by the suggestion that someone might want to buy us? No, given our performance so far in 2013, I am not. We have had a terrific year.”
Beechcraft’s creditors took ownership of the company in February in exchange for erasing close to $2.5 billion in debt. Beechcraft reportedly could fetch $1.5 billion, less than half the $3.3 billion that Goldman Sachs and Onex paid in 2007 to buy the company from Raytheon. It also is a little less than the $1.79 billion that Chinese-backed Superior Aviation Beijing had planned to pay for Beechcraft.
While Beechcraft is returning to stability and profitability on its aging family of pistons and turboprops, the King Air product line is considered a “cash cow” that held up well through the downturn and one with no real direct competitor. Beechcraft’s services business is also seen as lucrative, with a customer base of many thousands of King Airs and Hawkers still in service.
The sale of Beechcraft would likely be independent of its efforts to dispose of the Premier and Hawker 4000 jet lines. Beechcraft has been hoping to conclude that sale by the end of the year.
As for speculation surrounding Cessna, Scott Donnelly, chairman of Cessna’s parent company Textron, told analysts last year that parts of Beechcraft were of interest to Cessna and that Textron was monitoring the bankruptcy proceedings.