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Beechcraft negotiating with potential buyer for some assets

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at 11:55 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, at 1:17 p.m.

Beechcraft Corp. is in exclusive negotiations with a potential buyer for its Hawker 4000 and Premier business jet assets, which includes the company’s Plant 3 composite manufacturing facility, Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture said last week.

The potential buyer has plans for the Plant 3 facility, Boisture said during an interview at the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas.

“They’re intending to go into the composite component manufacturing business,” Boisture said. “That’s a very positive thing.”

Wichita has a workforce that understands that capability, he said. “There’s reason to believe they could be very successful,” Boisture said.

He doesn’t think, however, that the buyer will restart jet production.

“That doesn’t appear to be an economic alternative, given the current market,” he said.

A sale includes the type certificates, tooling and intellectual property of the Hawker 4000 and Premier lines along with Plant 3 and its equipment.

Beechcraft is “dangerously” close to closing a deal, Boisture said at a news conference at its static display last week at the Henderson Executive Airport.

The company is “well along with a buyer with whom we have a great deal of confidence,” he said.

Boisture declined to identify the party.

Beechcraft exited business jet manufacturing during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings last year.

The assets are for sale as part of the company’s restructuring. The company emerged from bankruptcy in February as the smaller Beechcraft Corp., focusing on King Air, Bonanza and Baron products and its military and aftermarket divisions

Boisture declined to comment on reports that the entire company is up for sale and or drawn interest from bidders.

“There is a rumor mill running out there,” Boisture said. “People recognize we’ve created significant value, and we’re figuring out what we’re going to do with that value. We had a great year.”

The company is ahead of its business plan filed with the court during the restructuring.

Beechcraft is owned by four large shareholders and numerous smaller shareholders.

Some of those shareholders were creditors who received equity in the company as part of the settlement of their claims during bankruptcy.

Bloomberg, quoting unnamed sources, said last week that possible buyers include Brazil’s Embraer, India’s Mahindra & Mahindra and Cessna’s parent company, Textron.

But Embraer spokesman Bob Stangarone said at the NBAA show last week that Embraer is not a potential buyer.

“We have no interest in acquiring Beechcraft,” Stangarone said in a quick meet-up at the show.

This year’s NBAA is the first for the restructured company.

Boisture said he was asked what kind of news it would be announcing at the show.

“Part of the news is, we’re here,” Boisture said during a news conference.

Last year, the company was going through bankruptcy.

Today, “we’re proud to represent the 5,000 people at Beechcraft” and to have a healthy, thriving company, he said.

He said orders and deliveries have been strong. The company is raising production rates next year to keep up with higher-than-planned orders, Boisture said.

The company is close to announcing a launch customer for its AT-6 attack version of its T-6 military trainer, he said.

And it’s expecting several international contracts for T-6. That’s a “major element” of the company’s 2014 plan.

Its global mission support business is also growing.

Beechcraft’s product development is moving forward, and the company has increased its spending. It’s working on an “exciting” development program for the King Air expected to find its way into the market in 2015, Boisture said.

He declined to say whether that program was a single-engine model of the King Air turboprop.

The company has been undergoing extensive research on whether to add a model to its line.

Beechcraft can define a design and develop a plane itself.

Or “it may be the better path for us to acquire an existing design we could modify,” Boisture said.

That’s a less risky proposition.

“There are several out there,” he said of the designs.

Beechcraft Corp. announced at the show that it had delivered 48 planes in the third quarter this year, including 38 commercial and 10 military trainer airplanes.

Through the first nine months of 2013, Beechcraft delivered 163 Beechcraft aircraft, up from 111 for the same time a year ago, an increase of 47 percent.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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