Textron, the Rhode Island-based parent of Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, will expand its aviation business by buying Beechcraft for $1.4 billion, the company announced late Thursday.
Beechcraft, with estimated 2013 revenues of $1.8 billion, is a leading manufacturer of business, special mission, light attack and trainer aircraft, Textrron said.
“The acquisition of Beechcraft is a tremendous opportunity to extend our general aviation business,” said Textron Chairman and CEO Scott C. Donnelly. “From our customers’ perspective, this creates a broader selection of aircraft and a larger service footprint.”
Adding Beechcraft will expand Cessna’s lineup of piston-engine and turboprop planes, a less-competitive field than private jets. Formerly known as Hawker Beechcraft, the company left bankruptcy protection in February and stopped making business jets to focus on propeller-driven models such as military trainers and the twin-engine King Air.
“The remaining Beechcraft business is a solid annuity franchise that should complement what Cessna has,” Robert Stallard, a London-based analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients. “Textron has been in debt pay-down mode for a number of years and with a cleaned-up balance sheet, it has the capacity to do a deal of this size.”
Slumping demand for private jets and curbs on U.S. defense spending led Wichita, Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft to file for bankruptcy in May 2012. Negotiations to sell it for $1.79 billion to a Chinese buyer collapsed months later.
Donnelly expressed interest in Beechcraft during a July 2012 quarterly earnings call after the Chinese bid for planemaker was made public. In October, Textron declined to comment after people familiar with the matter said the company was among possible suitors exploring a bid after Beechcraft put itself on the block.
Adding Beechcraft would bolster an aviation business that accounted for 60 percent of Textron’s $12.2 billion in revenue last year. Products including the Commando four-wheeled armored vehicle and E-Z-Go golf carts make up the remainder of its sales.
Beechcraft’s twin-engine King Air turboprops would complement Cessna’s single-engine Caravan line, especially after Beechcraft landed a $788 million order in August, according to Brian Foley, a consultant in Sparta, N.J.
The King Air division is Beechcraft’s most valuable asset and biggest driver of its profits, Foley said. Deliveries of all aircraft types totaled 204 in 2012, according to the company’s website.
Beechcraft is controlled by its former creditors. Centerbridge Partners, Sankaty Advisors and Angelo, Gordon & Co. are among the funds that own a combined stake of about 90 percent and took control following the bankruptcy, according to the company. Before bankruptcy, Hawker Beechcraft was owned by Goldman Sachs Group and Onex Corp.