10 Significant Aviation Investments, Mergers, Acquisitions in 2017

By S.L. Fuller | December 19, 2017
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Image courtesy of Japan Airlines and Boom Supersonic

Image courtesy of Japan Airlines and Boom Supersonic

Last year in 2016, Global Eagle Entertainment completed a $550 million acquisition of Emerging Markets Communications, Rockwell Collins announced intent to acquire B/E Aerospace for $6.4 billion and Alaska Air Group announced intent to purchase Virgin America fro $2.6 billion — to name a few business move. 2017 saw even bigger deals for bigger dollars, as well as multi-million-dollar investments. 2017 was also a major year for investments within innovative new research and development projects, as well as merger and acquisition activity across the aviation industry.

Here are some of the 2017 highlights:

Japan Airlines Invests $10M in US Company Building Supersonic Airliner

Japan Airlines announced at the beginning of December that it had invested $10 million in a U.S. company building a commercial, supersonic jet. The airline became the second of Boom Supersonic option holders, joining Virgin Group.

Three Boeing HorizonX Investments

Boeing launched a venture investment division, Horizon X, in April. That same month, it invested in a start-up developing alternative propulsion aircraft. Zunum Aero is looking at “hybrid-to-electrics” aircraft, capable of performing short-haul flights with low aviation emissions. In June, HorizonX invested in SparkCognition, an artificial intelligence and machine-learning company based in Texas. Then in October, HorizonX invested in a company that specializes in autonomous flight. Near Earth Autonomy is a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.

BBA Aviation Merges With Gama Aviation

U.K.-based BBA Aviation PLC announced at the start of 2017 that it would be merging with Gama Aviation’s U.S.-based aircraft management business. The combined entity would manage a fleet of 200 business jets, making it one of the world’s largest aircraft management companies.

Nextant Merges with Air Services, Cites Market Changes

In June, Nextant Aerospace announced that it merged with Air Services. The company said the move was made to expand global remanufacturing capability. The CEO of Nextant’s parent company said it needed to respond to “significant changes in the global pre-owned aircraft market.”

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company

Boeing broke the news Oct. 5 that it planned to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. By Nov. 8, the deal was made official. Aurora retains its name (with “a Boeing Company” now on the end), as well as an independent operating model.

Astronics to Expand In-Flight Connectivity Portfolio with Acquisition of Telefonix

Astronics announced at the end of October that it had entered into a “definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets” of Telefonix Inc. and related company Product Development Technologies LLC. The move would be worth $104 million.

Orbital ATK to Become a Northrop Grumman Business

Northrop Grumman announced in September its intent to buy Orbital ATK. The deal, worth $9.2 billion, is expected to close in the first six months of 2018. Orbital ATK would be added to Northrop Grumman as a new, fourth business sector.

UTC/Rockwell Collins Blockbuster Merger Talks

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) has not officially acquired Rockwell Collins. But the potential business move — which started out as reports and hearsay — is set to be voted Jan. 11, 2018. According to a proxy statement submitted to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) by Rockwell Collins, the special meeting in January would allow share owners to vote on several financial and aspects related to the merger. Analysts said the acquisition of Rockwell Collins would be the biggest acquisition ever completed in the history of the aerospace and defense manufacturing industry. The “implied” total equity value of the potential deal is worth $23 billion, and the total transaction value would be $30 billion, including Rockwell Collins’ net debt.

Standardaero Acquires Vector Aerospace

In November, Standardaero completed its acquisition of Vector Aerospace to become one of the world's largest independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) companies. The newly combined company, which will maintain the name of StandardAero, has more than 6,000 employees in 42 locations across five continents, with annual revenues of approximately $3 billion.

China to Spend Billions on In-flight Connectivity Initiatives

The government of Guangzhou City and Bluefocus IFEC Technology are set to jointly establish the “Belt and Road” in-flight internet fund with a capital injection of 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). Also supporting the program is China's first Inflight Internet Centre for Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a $1 trillion yuan ($151.1 billion) Inflight Internet Industrial Park.

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