Hawker Sees Stand-Alone Bankruptcy Exit as Sale Collapses

Hawker Beechcraft Inc., the business-jet maker partly owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., plans to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone company after a sale to Superior Aviation Beijing Co. collapsed.

A review of strategic alternatives for the Hawker jet line is under way, and that business may close “if no satisfactory bids are received,” according to a statement today. The post-bankruptcy company would be renamed Beechcraft Corp. and focus on planes including civilian turboprops and military trainers.

The failed $1.79 billion deal with Superior may rekindle interest in Wichita, Kansas-based Hawker. India’s Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has been in contact with the company, a person with knowledge of the matter said today, and Textron Inc. said yesterday it had continued to track the Hawker talks after Superior agreed to a so-called stalking horse bid in July.

“We protected ourselves by obtaining a $50 million deposit from Superior that is now fully non-refundable and property of the company,” Hawker Chief Executive Officer Steve Miller said in the statement. The sides couldn’t agree on terms, he said.

Hawker, owned by Goldman and Onex Corp., filed for Chapter 11 protection in May, citing lower demand for private jets after the recession and curbs on U.S. defense spending. Its offerings include military trainers as well as business aircraft such the Hawker 4000 jet and King Air turboprop.

New Focus

Under the stand-alone plan, Beechcraft Corp. would concentrate on turboprops, piston-engine planes and special mission and trainer/attack aircraft for military uses, along with its parts, maintenance and repair businesses.

“The company, in consultation with its key creditor constituents, is evaluating its strategic alternatives for the Hawker product lines, which could include a sale of some or all of those product lines, or a closure of the entire jet business,” according to the statement.

An amended reorganization plan will be filed “soon” with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, Hawker said. The company said it intends to schedule a hearing on its disclosure statement on Nov. 15 and expects to leave court protection in the first quarter.

Hawker said it has “more than sufficient liquidity to complete its restructuring.”

Talks Stalled

The accord with Superior was subject to higher bids at a bankruptcy court auction. Negotiations to complete the deal stalled in part over questions about Superior’s financing, according to people familiar with the process, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private.

A team of Hawker executives and advisers that recently flew to China made little progress amid cultural and language barriers, said one of the people.

Calls to Superior’s office in Coppell, Texas, where CEO Tim Archer is based, weren’t answered today. Archer didn’t return messages left yesterday regarding the status of the negotiations with Hawker.

Textron CEO Scott Donnelly told analysts yesterday that he was monitoring the negotiations between Hawker and Superior. He had expressed interest in Hawker in July while calling Superior’s bid “pretty high” and saying that any Textron offer would have to be “the right value.”

Textron Today

“Textron has no further comment on this topic other than what was communicated in yesterday’s earnings conference call,” David Sylvestre, a spokesman for the Providence, Rhode Island-based company, said today in a telephone interview.

The collapse of the deal may open doors for Textron’s Cessna Aircraft Co., Stephen Levenson, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in New York, said today in a note to clients.

“Under almost any circumstances, we think the outcome could be positive for Cessna’s business-jet operations,” Levenson wrote. Hawker’s jet division probably will disappear, removing a competitor, and the King Air turboprop line, military-trainer business or both would flourish under Cessna, said Levenson, who rates Textron as buy.

Mahindra & Mahindra, India’s biggest maker of utility vehicles and a manufacturer of turboprops, had earlier bid for Hawker, a person with knowledge of the matter said in July.

While the Mumbai-based company has had contacts with Hawker representatives about the possibility of another offer, no decision has been reached yet on whether to submit another bid, the person with knowledge of the matter said.

Douglas Royce, an aviation analyst with Newtown, Connecticut-based researcher Forecast International Inc., said he sees little chance that another company would buy the new Beechcraft as a whole, and even selling off units may be difficult.

“At this point, they would have exhausted all the potential buyers,” he said. Royce said it was unlikely Textron “would see any advantage by picking up any of Hawker Beechcraft’s products.”

The case is In re Hawker Beechcraft Inc., 12-11873, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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