Bristow Group to acquire Columbia Helicopters

Jon Robinson
November 15, 2018
Bristow Group Inc., focusing on industrial aviation services, signed a definitive agreement to combine with privately held Columbia Helicopters Inc. for US$560 million ($740.8 million). Columbia will be designated as an unrestricted subsidiary under the Columbia name and air operating certificate (AOC).

Founded in 1957 by Wes Lematta and headquartered in Aurora, Oregon, Columbia focuses on heavy-lift helicopter operations, in addition to its maintenance, repair and overhaul services, primarily in the sectors of defense, firefighting, onshore oil and gas, infrastructure and forestry.

For the 12 months ended September 30, 2018, Columbia recorded revenues of approximately US$281 million and adjusted EBITDA of approximately US$117 million. Columbia's fleet of operating helicopters is comprised of 21 tandem rotor Vertol 107 and Chinook CH-234 / CH-47D; with additional non-operational airframes available for deployment.

“We share a long-standing, proven commitment to safety and Columbia's specialized heavy-lift capabilities are highly complementary to Bristow's offshore capabilities. We therefore see significant opportunity to leverage the combined company's fleet, MRO capabilities and certificates to expand our addressable market opportunities globally,” said Jonathan Baliff, CEO of Bristow. “Just as importantly, we believe we will be able to utilize our U.K. SAR expertise to build our combined business in the growing U.S. government and industrial end-markets, where Columbia has deep experience.”

In related news, Bristow announced the pending retirement of Baliff in the coming months. Thomas Amonett, vice-chairman of the board of directors of Bristow, has been appointed to serve as the interim president of the company during the CEO transition process. Until his retirement, Baliff will focus on integration planning for the Columbia Helicopters.

Together, the companies will have 304 operating aircraft and a large platform to expand its client base. Bristow explains its customer base will be significantly more diverse geographically and by end-market, with contributions from the oil and gas industry reduced to 58 per cent of pro forma revenue for the trailing 12-month period.

The company explains that Columbia generates significant contracted revenue streams from the U.S. government and the transaction is expected to more than double the combined annual adjusted EBITDA on a consolidated basis. Prior to synergies, Columbia is expected to generate $125 million to $130 million of adjusted EBITDA for the 12-month period ending March 30, 2019, and $100 million to $105 million of adjusted EBITDA less capital expenditures, which are primarily related to heavy aircraft maintenance capex.

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