GE buys Irish helicopter-leasing firm for €1.4bn

Dublin-based helicopter-leasing firm Milestone Aviation Group is to be acquired by the sector’s biggest player, GE Capital Aviation Services, for nearly $1.8bn (€1.4bn).

GE buys Irish helicopter-leasing firm for €1.4bn

Helicopter finance is one of the fastest-growing areas of the aviation sector. The move will diversify the GECAS — General Electric’s aircraft-leasing subsidiary, which also has a base in Shannon — business model beyond leasing of commercial jets and put its capital “to work at good returns”, according to chairman and chief executive Keith Sherin.

“The addition of Milestone will deepen our domain expertise in aviation and oil and gas; two critical GE industries,” added Mr Sherin.

Milestone has grown into a leading helicopter-leasing firm since its 2010 establishment. Its fleet currently includes 168 helicopters worth $2.8bn, as well as a strong forward order and option book of $3bn with a variety of helicopter manufacturers.

The helicopters in its fleet are primarily deployed in offshore oil and gas, search and rescue, emergency medical services, and mining, as well as in other industries. They are leased to 31 operators in 25 countries.

The acquisition — which remains subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals — is targeted to close next year.

It forms part of GE Capital’s strategic plan of growing and enhancing value in core areas such as energy, aviation, oil and gas, and healthcare, while reducing the overall size of GE Capital through the disposition of non-strategic assets such as the recently executed IPO and planned spin-off of its North American retail finance business and the sale of its consumer banks in the Nordic region.

Milestone’s management team — including chairman and chief executive Richard Santulli, John Burns, Robert Thor Dranitzke, and Matthew Harris — and workforce will remain in place to run what will now be the helicopter-leasing arm of GECAS, with the latter’s president, Norm Liu, calling them “among the most experienced leadership team in aviation financing”.

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