By Christina Karaoli Taylor
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
7:56 PM CDT, July 9, 2012
Wichita aviation experts are optimistic that Hawker Beechcraft’s sale to a Chinese company will bring an infusion of cash to the Wichita planemaker.
Aviation consultant Dave Franson told Eyewitness News Hawker’s intent in selling to Superior Aviation of Beijing is to try and minimize the impact that the bankruptcy would have on the product line, Hawker’s workers and its customers.
“I’m hopeful there will be a minimal impact on the company,” says Franson. “But even when these deals are made, and it’s said that nothing will be changed, it’s amazing how change does occur over a period of time.”
Hawker Beechcraft filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. Under the terms of the agreement, Superior will buy Hawker for $1.79 billion. Superior will make payments over the next six week to support ongoing operations.
“Hawker pointed out it was the best offer they received,” Franson says. “I was a little bit surprised that there wasn't a better offer than 1.7 billion.” That’s because when Goldman Sachs and Onex bought the company in 2006, they paid $3.3 billion. “Of course, the company wasn’t in bankruptcy then,” adds Franson.
Franson says Hawker’s turboprops and King Airs are good products and potentially good sellers when the market improves. The planemaker’s jets will still be a question mark. This deal, he says, buys Hawker some time to figure that out.
The deal excludes Hawker’s Defense Company (HBDC) which will stay a separate entity. Franson explains a defense company could not be sold to a foreign buyer because it’s a state department issue and you can’t sell strategic products to a buyer in another country.
The sale is not finalized. There’s 45-day period to resolve any issues and close the deal. If negotiations fall through, Hawker will return to bankruptcy “probably in a worse situation because they may have legal costs from this process,” adds Franson.
In general, Franson hopes this deal could limit the impact Hawker’s bankruptcy will have on employees and customers. But as a long-time aviation participant and watcher in town he says “It’s disconcerting to see a foreign buyer for a Wichita-born company. What’s fixed in my mind as I think about this, it’s a Chinese company coming into Wichita and becoming the controlling interest.”
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