Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s meeting with the head of Superior Aviation Beijing in Beijing was called off due to the sensitivity of the ongoing negotiations between the company and Hawker Beechcraft, local officials said Monday.
The mayor left Friday to lead a Wichita delegation on a five-city, 12-day business development trip to China. One of the first stops was supposed to be a meeting with Cheng Shenzong, chairman of Superior Aviation Beijing, the potential buyer of Hawker Beechcraft.
“Of course we are disappointed not to have met with Chairman Chen,” Brewer said in an e-mailed statement from Beijing. “We were looking forward to the opportunity to begin a positive relationship. As always we want to be supportive of Wichita companies and their interests.”
Hawker Beechcraft filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, and later received approval from the bankruptcy court to enter into exclusive negotiations with Superior for the possible purchase of the Wichita planemaker.
The mayor wanted to ask Shenzong about the potential acquisition and whether Superior would keep the company’s production and employees in Wichita should the deal go through. He also wanted to accentuate the reasons why the work should stay in Wichita.
Superior signed an initial agreement in July to buy Hawker Beechcraft for $1.79 billion. The deal doesn’t include Hawker Beechcraft’s defense business. The two companies remain in negotiations to finalize a deal, which is subject to government approvals and to an auction process by the bankruptcy court.
Despite the canceled meeting, the Wichita delegation had a productive meeting at the U.S. Embassy, reports Karyn Page, president and CEO of Kansas Global Trade Services, who is part of the group. They gained information to help Wichita companies trade with China and received an overview of the current state of affairs in China.
Brewer also hosted an aviation luncheon with the American Chamber of Commerce, with about 40 people from U.S. and China aviation companies in attendance. Many of them expressed interest in aviation training opportunities in Wichita, Page said in an e-mail.
They also met with the second vice mayor Gou Zhongwen of Beijing. The mayor expressed an interest in exploring city-to-city cooperation focused on general aviation and aviation training, Page said.
“Beijing wants to be lead GA (general aviation) center in China and has resources to pull it off,” she wrote. “What they lack is knowledge in management and training. A partnership with the Air Capital can accelerate development of their GA industry, providing Wichita with manufacturing and service export opportunities as well as direct investment opportunities.”
The first day of meetings has been productive, Brewer said in a statement. “We are pleased to learn of possible export and investment opportunities for the Wichita and Kansas economy in the aviation and agriculture sectors.”