3i chasing Jet Aviation

Reports suggest that the European private equity firm is finalising a bid for another European airline company, the sector that produced 3i’s most profitable recent investment.

3i was one of a number of financial buyers looking at a possible $500m offer for Jet Aviation, the Swiss-based charter airline company that put itself up for sale last year.

Reuters now reports that 3i has entered into exclusive talks with the Swiss company, having offered close to eight times Jet's current annualized EBITDA which stands at around $65m.

The Hirschmann family, which set up the business in 1967, selected 3i from a shortlist of four bidders, including Bahrain-based InvestCorp. Goldman Sachs is co-ordinating the sale on behalf of the family.

With over 3,500 employees in over 60 locations worldwide, Jet provides services including maintenance, engineering and aircraft sales alongside passenger services. Jet operates over 150 aircraft in Europe, United States and in the Middle East with about 60 per cent of its operations based in Europe.

3i has declined to comment on the report although the airline sector holds considerable allure for the firm, following the success of its investment in low-cost airline Go, realised earlier this year. 3i acquired the UK budget operator from UK flag-carrier British Airways for around £100m in summer 2001, selling the business in May to low-cost rival EasyJet for £374m.

Completion of the Jet deal is not expected for another month.