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Bill Gates joins bid to buy British private jet firm

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The financial dogfight for Signature Aviation, the FTSE 250 Company which once made parts for the Spitfire and now helps keep America’s executive jets airborne, took another dramatic twist today.

Rival bidders Blackstone and Global Infrastructure Partners called a truce to join forces, and together with Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates’s investment vehicle Cascade – which already holds a 19% stake – presented a joint offer to shareholders.

The deal will be worth $4.7 billion (£3.5 billion) in cash, around $100 million more than the standalone offer from GIP last month, which had previously been recommended by Signature’s board. It will leave Gatwick Airport-owner GIP and Blackstone with 35% of the company’s shares each, while Cascade will up its stake to 30%.

Shares in Signature, which provides support services including fueling, ground handling and passenger lounges at most top US airports, had been trading at 265p prior to the takeover battle. They soared to a high of 425p last month on investors’ expectations of a bidding war.

This suggests shareholders expect at least one further twist in the saga: perhaps another sortie from Carlyle, the private equity giant which made an initial bid late last year.

Approval is dependent on 75% of votes being in favour. Sir Nigel told investors: “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 11 January 2021.”

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