Ansett Aviation Training is set to be purchased for over $100 million by a consortium of private investors, in order to recapitalise the business following the “challenges of the pandemic”.
The consortium has entered into a binding agreement with “certain AAT shareholders and debt holders” that will ultimately see the investors own 100 per cent of Ansett Aviation Training (AAT) “in partnership with management”.
Dubbed Aviation Training Partners, the consortium is made up of Sydney-based Arcadia Capital, “affiliates of the leadership team” at Bridger Aerospace Group, as well as Bain Capital Credit – notably a subsidiary of Bain Capital, the recent purchaser of Virgin Australia.
The final deal is still subject to regulatory approvals, and will be investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as well as the Foreign Investment Review Board.
“As has been the case for many businesses in the aviation industry, both in Australia and globally, the impacts of the pandemic on AAT have been significant and continue to cause disruption,” AAT said in a statement.
“[The consortium’s] ownership will facilitate the required recapitalisation of AAT’s balance sheet, including both a reduction of the company’s existing debt to more sustainable levels and the investment of fresh capital into the business, to ensure the company has the requisite balance sheet strength and flexibility to trade confidently through to a recovery in the global aviation market.”
David Garside, CEO of Ansett Aviation Training, said the announcement was “an important next step” in the company’s ongoing response to the “challenges” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to COVID-related disruptions our business had become over-levered, and our assets under-utilised,” Garside said.
“We need further assistance to recover and believe that with the financial and strategic support of ATP we will be well placed to prosper long-term. We welcome the agreement with Aviation Training Partners and will work closely with ATP to implement it.”
Sam Walker, co-founder and partner at Arcadia Capital, said the consortium was “pleased” to be partnering with Garside and the existing team at AAT, and will begin investing immediately in the business, including upgrading AAT’s simulators.
“We are focused on actively working with AAT’s stakeholders to re-establish a sustainable capital structure, expand services and deepen relationships with customers,” he said.
“We will work alongside management to update and upgrade AAT’s current simulator fleet, with capital set aside for such investment from day one.
“We recognise the critical importance of AAT’s services to the aviation industry and are committed to ensuring the company can continue to provide these services as borders reopen and the aviation industry recovers.”
AAT has changed hands a number of times since the collapse of Ansett in 2001 and is one of the few Ansett businesses to continue to trade under the Ansett name to this day.
Then named the Ansett Australia Flight Simulator Centre, the training hub continued to operate while the airline navigated administration and was seen as one of the few Ansett businesses that could operate independently and turn a profit.
In 2004, Ansett Training Australia, including the business itself, related buildings, land and its flight simulators, were sold to local investors David Gilmour and Wayne Bos.
Within four years, Ansett Aviation training was the largest training provider in Australia and continued to expand dramatically, with the purchase of new Boeing 737, Fokker 100 and Beechcraft King Air simulators, and an additional Airbus A320 simulator.
Then, in 2012, Australian private equity firm Champ Ventures bought a majority stake in the business, which later saw AAT expand internationally, with the establishment of Ansett Simulator Training Centres in Taiwan in 2016, and Milan in 2017.
AAT opened a new Australian training centre in Brisbane in 2017, and now remains a global provider of full-flight simulation training solutions, with its Melbourne centre known as the largest independent simulator training centre in the Southern Hemisphere.