Air Partnering Up

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Air Partner, one of the world’s largest charter brokers, this week acquired aviation safety company Baines Simmons for £6 million.

Baines Simmons is best known in business aviation for outsourcing aircraft surveys for the Isle of Man aircraft registry. The company has also trained more than 120,000 aviation professionals and says it has worked with 35% of the world’s airlines.

Air Partner is listed on the London Stock Exchange and one of the things that attracted it to Baines Simmons is that the company has more predictable earnings than aircraft charter. Earlier this year it bought Cabot Aviation, a commercial aircraft and helicopter broker for the same reason.

Last year Air Partner had revenues of £192 million ($300 million) with business jet charter accounting for £27.1 million of these (this is what they invoice the customer before paying operators). It made £2.6 million in profits on these sales. Air Partner has more than 200 employees.

Baines Simmons made a profit of £0.7 million on a turnover of £5.4 million. Baines Simmons has more than 80 staff and consultants. Air Partner has more than 200 in 21 offices around the world.

Kevin Baines and Bob Simmons created the company in 2001 (40 years before Air Partner launched) after both leaving the UK Civil Aviation Authority.  Andrew Parker, who joined as managing director in 2008, was the other shareholder.

The charter company approached Baines Simmons and this is not likely to be its last non-broker acquisition.

“Broking will always be a core part of Air Partner but we are not convinced that acquiring other charter brokers and consolidating the broker market really brings long term value,” says Justin Scarborough, Director of corporate development and investor relations. “But we see a strong fit for other strong aviation businesses like Baines Simmons and Cabot Aviation.”

Baines Simmons’ airworthiness surveyors have completed more than 2,200 aircraft surveys on Isle of Man aircraft and may be about to start working with another jurisdiction.

Brian Johnson, now at Appleby and the founder of the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry says they have been a key part of the success of the Isle of Man. “We could not have launched without them,” says Johnson. “In fact, Bob Simmons really did all the work and I just took all of the credit.”

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