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Soros-Backed Waypoint Wins $550 Million Helicopter Debt

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Waypoint Leasing, a specialist in helicopter deals whose backers include Soros Fund Management LLC, reached an agreement for borrowing capacity of as much as $550 million to secure $1 billion in assets by the end of 2014.

Waypoint has transactions lined up to bring its fleet under management to 21 helicopters exceeding $300 million in value by the end of this year, Chief Executive Officer Ed Washecka said. The models, acquired largely through sale-leaseback agreements, include aircraft from Eurocopter SAS, Finmeccanica SpA’s AgustaWestland unit and United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky.

Waypoint raised $375 million in equity this year from MSD Capital, Cartesian Capital Group and Soros to help build up its Limerick, Ireland-based helicopter leasing arm and tap demand for models used in the oil and gas industry. The debt facility includes a five-year, $335 million revolving credit line that can be expanded to $550 million, the company said in a statement.

“Having a sizable debt facility allows us to ramp up the pace of transaction,” Washecka said in a phone interview. “Over the medium-term, it will provide us with significant flexibility to build out the business.”

Growth plans may exceed the initial $1 billion asset target, even doubling that figure in the near term, Washecka said. Existing debt facilities and equity capacity should assure the goal can be met, he said.

Search-and-Rescue

Leases, which also include some agreements for helicopters used in search-and-rescue and utility services, average about five to six years, the CEO said.

Contracts include leases of Eurocopter EC225s in Australia, Washecka said. Demand for the model has held up even after crashes in the North Sea last year, he said.

“The issues surrounding the ditchings have been satisfactorily explained,” he said.

Waypoint will also start to take delivery next year of helicopters bought directly from manufacturers. It placed an initial order in March to acquire four helicopters from AgustaWestland, including the newest AW169 and AW189 models.

The borrowing for helicopter acquisitions closed this year will probably be bundled into a term-debt facility in the first quarter of 2014, Washecka said.

The credit facility was arranged by Credit Suisse Group AG, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc. and CIT Finance LLC, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Union Bank NA, Fifth Third Bancorp and 1st Source Bank also involved in the transaction.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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