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05 Feb 2021 | 07:04

GIP teams up with Blackstone, Gates in $4.7bn Signature Aviation bid

(Sharecast News) - Global Infrastructure Partners has teamed up with fellow private equity firm Blackstone and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to bid for Signature Aviation in an offer valuing the world's largest private jet services firm at $4.73bn (£3.43bn), the trio said on Friday. The latest offer of $5.62 a share is to buy all of Signature's shares other than the 19.01% owned by or controlled by Gates' investment arm Cascade and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust.

Signature had been at the centre of a dogfight between Blackstone and GIP since December, with rival private equity group Carlyle was also mentioned as a potential bidder. The board had accepted a solo bid from GIP

Gates, through his own investment arm Cascade, increased his share in Signature to 19%. The private aviation sector has soared during the Covid-19 pandemic as commercial airline fleets are grounded.

Signature is the world's leading provider of ground handling, passenger and pilot amenities, technical support, hangar rental and fuelling at 370 locations around the world,

Gates first bought shares in the business in 2009 and topped up his investment twice last year as the share price fell on Covid concerns.

Signature chairman Nigel Rudd said the firm's resilient performance and strong financial position through the pandemic has enabled the board "to consider its future and evaluate this offer from a position of strength".

He added that new offer "represents an attractive and certain value in cash today for Signature shareholders reflecting the high quality of the business and its network".

"The Signature board believes that the proposal provides clear benefits to our shareholders and the operational and financial resources of Blackstone, GIP and Cascade will generate enhanced opportunities for our employees, and ensure continued high quality, full services flight support for B&GA travel."
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