After one year of meetings with almost 30 different financiers, Waypoint Leasing has raised $375 million from three backers to launch as a helicopter operating lessor. The final investor group consists of MSD Capital, Soros Fund Management and Cartesian Capital Group and the equity will be used to buy helicopters to lease to operators.
“For a year I worked with the investor group to turn what was essentially an idea into a real business,” says Ed Washecka, co-founder and CEO of Waypoint, which is headquartered in Limerick, Ireland and Darien, CT.
Washecka, who launched a helicopter leasing business for Era Group in 2005, tells Corporate Jet Investor that operating leasing offers customers balance sheet flexibility. He also notes that it gives operators in emerging markets another source of capital where securing debt to fund aircraft might be more difficult.
Waypoint signed an agreement with AgustaWestland for four helicopters on March 6. But the company’s primary growth strategy will be to acquire equipment through sale/leasebacks to build its fleet. The lessor has already signed one lease with an undisclosed client.
The helicopter industry has consolidated driving a need for funding options for larger companies. “It’s a market in transition,” says Bill Jarosz, a partner at Cartesian Capital. “The market really is underserved with only one lessor,” he says. “We aim to be the second large lessor in the market and we aim to get there quickly.”
The shareholders will work closely with Waypoint senior management to attract international clients. Cartesian Capital has experience in emerging markets, specifically in Brazil, which the lessor intends to leverage as its grows its international presence.
Washecka says that the investors anticipate significant opportunities for leasing helicopters to a global group of customers. “Helicopter operators are looking for an experienced, specialized leasing partner who can help them modernize, grow and manage their helicopter fleets,” he says.
The investors are confident in Waypoint’s ability to build market share. “We see a continued demand for helicopters, an absence of competitors of scale and an increasing need for financing solutions. All three of those factors add up to a very promising investment,” says Jarosz.
“With demand for innovative helicopter leasing and management solutions growing rapidly, Waypoint has a unique opportunity to be a premier service provider in the market,” says another investor Eric Rosen who is a partner at MSD Capital.
Though stakeholders are not under any pressure to divest quickly, a possible exit could include an initial public offering similar to those in the fixed-wing aircraft market like Air Lease Corporation. At the moment there are no publicly held helicopter lessors.
Lazard Freres & Co arranged the transaction. Fox Rothschild represented Waypoint, while Willkie Farr & Gallagher advised the investor group.