Wheels Up Experience Inc has reached an agreement to acquire Air Partner plc, a UK-based global aviation services group with operations in 18 locations and across four continents. Under the terms of the transaction, Wheels Up would acquire the entire issued and to-be-issued ordinary share capital of Air Partner for 125 pence per share, equivalent to an enterprise value of approximately $107 million. The acquisition is expected to close later in the first quarter subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.
Founded in 1961, and in its early years known as Air London, Air Partner is a global aviation services company providing private jet, group and freight charter and aviation safety and security solutions to industry, commerce, governments and private individuals across civil and military organisations. Wheels Up is a major air charter operator, and also has the Wheels Up Cares fleet comprising five custom-painted Beechcraft King Air 350i aircraft, with each aircraft serving as a flying symbol for a specific social cause.
Air Partner will provide Wheels Up the ability to expand its service offerings internationally, and Wheels Up expects Air Partner to leverage Wheels Up's investments in operations, service and technology on a global basis with an active and engaged customer base. The proposed acquisition will enhance Wheels Up's brand equity and will also add an experienced global team from a company with more than 60 years of continuous operations in private aviation.
“Today’s announcement marks an important new chapter for Wheels Up as we systematically build the leading global, private aviation company that creates unparalleled value for our customers and shareholders," says chairman and ceo Kenny Dichter. "This acquisition will allow us to offer existing and future customers even more compelling and seamless options for private travel, expand the reach of our marketplace in key markets around the world and add important operational capabilities to our network. Air Partner has tremendous heritage, leadership expertise and unique capabilities that will allow us to accelerate our global strategy and credibly expand our offerings in a meaningful way. We look forward to sharing more details on the transaction and our go-to-market plans after the deal formally closes."
Air Partner ceo Mark Briffa adds: “This proposed acquisition has a compelling strategic rationale, bringing together two businesses with complementary offerings and values for the benefit of their customers. I am extremely proud of Air Partner; we have built a fantastic team and a highly attractive business, and Wheels Up's offer is a clear acknowledgment of this. The Air Partner board believes that a combination with Wheels Up would give our customers, colleagues and stakeholders the additional resources of one of the largest private aviation companies in the world, enabling us to significantly enhance our technology, customer offer and international aircraft supply."
Wheels Up sees great strategic benefits to the proposed acquisition, including accelerating the development and growth of its technology-enabled marketplace, supporting expected growth amid accelerating global demand. With more than 60 years in private aviation, Air Partner has longstanding relationships with aircraft operators across the globe. Its existing ‘asset-light’ structure, with no owned aircraft or operating certificates, could bring flexibility to scale Wheels Up's international footprint more quickly and with limited capital investment.