Breaking: Bristow Helicopters in Huge Merger
Bristow Group Inc. (“Bristow”) and Era Group Inc. (ERA) (“Era”) announced today that they entered into a definitive agreement to combine the two companies in an all-stock transaction, creating a financially stronger company with enhanced size and diversification.
The combined company, which will be named Bristow, will strengthen its global leadership position with significant operations throughout the Americas, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia for offshore aviation transportation and search and rescue solutions. The new organization will offer a broader range of world-class, efficient solutions through enhanced fleet size and diversity, continuing to invest in new technology and safety features to meet the evolving needs of new and existing oil and gas customers and governmental agencies.
“We believe this merger will create substantial value for the stakeholders of both companies,” said Chris Bradshaw, President and CEO of Era. “The identified cost synergies are significant and, combined with the strong pro forma balance sheet and absence of capital commitments, support robust free cash flow generation. This merger achieves more efficient absorption of the significant fixed costs required to run an air carrier and better positions the combined company to manage industry challenges.”
“Bristow and Era share complementary cultures built on an unwavering commitment to safety and quality through experienced, well-trained trained pilots, mechanics, engineers and support staff,” said L. Don Miller, President and CEO of Bristow. “Merging these two companies will further build on that culture to create an even stronger, more integrated industry leader.”
Highly Compelling Strategic Rationale
- Enhances Global Leadership with Significant Presence in Key Geographic Regions and End-Markets:
- Significant operations throughout the Americas, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia
- Global leader in offshore oil and gas transportation, search and rescue and aircraft support services to government and civil organizations, with significant revenues and cash flow generated from government services contracts
Increases Fleet Size and Diversity:
- Combined fleet of more than 300 of the industry’s most modern aircraft with the latest generation of technology and safety features
- Creates the world’s largest operator of S92, AW189 and AW139 model helicopters
- Combined fleet will be predominantly owned (>80%), with attractive lease rates on the balance of the fleet
Creates Financially Stronger Company:
- Expected to achieve pro forma annual revenues of approximately $1.5 billion and run-rate adjusted EBITDA of approximately $240 million
- Substantial and highly achievable cost synergies with an annualized saving of at least $35 million through the elimination of redundant corporate expenses and the realization of enhanced operational efficiencies
- Maintains a strong balance sheet (~2.5x net leverage), supported by a large combined cash balance (over $250 million expected at closing)
- $112.5 million upsized ABL facility, with a robust free cash flow profile to facilitate continued deleveraging and returns to shareholders
Governance and Management
Following completion of the transaction, the combined company will be headquartered in Houston, Texas. Chris Bradshaw, President and CEO of Era, will become President and CEO of the combined company. The senior management team will be named at a future date.
The combined company will have a nine-member Board of Directors, including seven members from Bristow and two members from Era, including the CEO. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors will be appointed by Bristow.
The transaction will be structured as a reverse triangular merger whereby Era will issue shares to Bristow stockholders. Era (ERA) shares will continue to trade on the NYSE.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of both companies, Bristow shareholders would own 77% of the equity of the new company and Era shareholders would own 23%.
The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2020, following receipt of required regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, including approval by Bristow’s and Era’s stockholders. The merger is intended to qualify as a tax-free reorganization for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
Share Repurchase Plan
Era also announced today that, in connection with entry into the merger agreement, its Board of Directors has authorized a special stock repurchase program that would allow for the purchase of up to $10 million of its common stock from time to time and subject to market conditions on the open market or in privately negotiated transactions. The special repurchase program will commence as soon as practicable and will end upon the mailing of the joint proxy statement/prospectus for the merger. Era also noted that it intends to provide the market with periodic updates of the results of the repurchase program. Era’s previously announced repurchase program will be suspended until the closing of the merger.