This $10 Billion Deal Will Create the World’s Third-Largest Aircraft Leasing Firm

October 7, 2016, 4:48 AM UTC
Hainan Air to Acquire Stakes in Hong Kong Air, Chang'an Air
A Hainan Airlines Co. Airbus SAS A330 departs from Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. Hainan Airlines, backed by China's HNA Group, agreed to buy stakes in affiliates Hong Kong Airlines and Chang'an Airlines Co. for 1.12 billion yuan ($176 million) to expand in the world's fastest-growing travel market. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Nelson Ching/Bloomberg via Getty Images/File

Avolon Holdings, part of China’s acquisitive HNA Group, said on Thursday it agreed to buy the aircraft leasing business of CIT Group (CIT) for $10 billion to create the world’s third-largest aircraft leasing company.

Avolon said it will pay $10 billion for the $9.4 billion net asset value of CIT Group’s leasing unit, representing a premium of 6.7%.

CIT Group’s shares were up 7.58% at $39.16 in extended trading.

The transaction will be funded by a combination of Avolon‘s cash, new equity contributed by HNA Group-controlled Bohai Leasing and debt financing of $8.5 billion.

AerCap Holdings (AER) and General Electric’s (GE) GE Capital Aviation Services are the world’s leading aircraft lessors.

The deal comes after Reuters reported in September that Avolon was nearing a purchase of CIT‘s aerospace assets, which were also being pursued by China’s Ping An Insurance Group’s aircraft leasing arm, and Century Tokyo Leasing – a joint venture partner of CIT.

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Avolon‘s deal builds on a series of acquisitions made by Chinese aviation and shipping conglomerate HNA Group in recent years as it bulks up its global presence.

The deal also marks another victory for Hudson Executive Capital, the activist hedge fund founded by two former JPMorgan bankers last year. Hudson held 1.2 million shares of CIT, or around 0.5% of the stock, according to the fund’s latest regulatory filing.

According to people familiar with the matter, Hudson was among the investors pressing CIT Group to sell off the aircraft leasing arm. The fund has also pressed the company to shed its rail business and lending operations, sources said.

Other recent Hudson victories include France’s Danone (DANOY) agreeing to buy White Wave Foods, one of Hudson’s portfolio companies, in July for $10.4 billion. A month earlier Medtronic (MDT) agreed to buy another Hudson portfolio company, HeartWare International (HWIFF), for $1.1 billion.

The latest transaction will double the scale of Avolon, Chief Executive Dómhnal Slattery said.

The combined entity will have a fleet of 910 aircraft valued at over $43 billion, Avolon said in a statement on Thursday.

CIT Group’s aircraft leasing business had total assets of $11.1 billion and liabilities of $1.7 billion as of June 30. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

Avolon‘s financial advisers for the transaction were UBS Investment Bank and Morgan Stanley & Co LLC. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted as its legal advisers.