Blackstone muscles in on £3.5bn Signature Aviation takeover

August Graham, PA City Reporter

US investor Blackstone has muscled in on a multibillion-pound deal for London-listed Signature Aviation, which once made materials for Spitfire planes.

The private equity giant has joined forces with the company that manages Bill Gates’s fortune and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), an infrastructure investor, which last month agreed to take Signature private.

The deal will be worth 4.7 billion US dollars (£3.5 billion) in cash for Signature’s shareholders, around 100 million dollars more than the previous bid.

In January GIP claimed victory in the race to snap up Signature, seemingly beating interest from both Blackstone, Mr Gates’s Cascade, and Carlyle.

However, the new deal will leave GIP and Blackstone with 35% of the company’s shares each, while Cascade – which is currently Signature’s biggest shareholder with around 19% – will up its stake to 30%.

The new deal did not entirely take investors by surprise. Shares in Signature had been trading significantly above GIP’s 405p offer price – indicating that a higher bid was expected.

However, shareholders expressed their disappointment that the increased offer was only 411p, sending the shares down by around 3% in trading on Friday.

However, with shares still higher than the new bid, at 413.3p half an hour after markets opened on Friday, investors seem to be expecting at least one further twist in the saga.

Signature chairman Sir Nigel Rudd said: “Over recent years, the management of Signature has created a leading global private aviation support services business, whilst streamlining the group to maximise value for shareholders.

“The resilient performance and strong financial position through the pandemic has enabled the Signature board to consider its future and evaluate this offer from a position of strength.

“We believe that the offer from Blackstone, GIP and Cascade represents an attractive and certain value in cash today for Signature shareholders reflecting the high quality of the business and its network, its people and its future prospects, and at a higher price than the previous GIP offer announced on January 11 2021.”

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