Listing on the cards again for Weststar

“We are in talks with several banks on the matter,’’ WAS chairman Tan Sri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim (pic) told StarBiz.

PETALING JAYA: Weststar Aviation Services Sdn Bhd (WAS) is said to be reviewing its plans for an initial public offering to raise between RM1.5bil and RM2bil as it needs funding to further strengthen its foothold in the global markets.

If all goes as planned, the listing could even be before the year is out or early next year, those in the know said.

WAS is already operating in eight countries including Malaysia and wants to further expand in Saudi Arabia, Africa and the South American markets, where it currently operates helicopter services..

“We are in talks with several banks on the matter,’’ WAS chairman Tan Sri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim told StarBiz.

He declined to elaborate further.

WAS is in talks with several local and foreign banks for lead arranger for the local and foreign tranches and the banking groups include Malayan Banking Bhd, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, Ambank and JP Morgan.

This is not the first time WAS has considered a listing exercise but had to delay it because of unfavourable market conditions in the past.

Even though the aviation sector is still in the doldrums, led by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, helicopter transport services are very much in demand across the globe, especially to service the oil and gas and medical services sectors. “WAS has been expanding the past few years and even during 2019 when oil prices were depressed, demand for helicopter services remained,’’ said a source.

He said there were a number of reasons for the listing now as the company was on a better footing, it needed to raise new capital to fund its expansion and the timing for IPOs appeared more favourable.

WAS also has a long-term shareholder in United States-based private equity firm KKR & Co and the listing could potentially be a way for KKR to exit because of its own regional strategy.

“At the same time, the listing allows other strategic investors to take up a stake in WAS,’’ said the source.

WAS began operations in 2003 when Syed Azman paid US$1.5mil (RM6.33mil) to buy a second-hand helicopter for his travels.

When he was not using the copter, he leased it and it was then that he ventured into the provision of helicopter services.

From one helicopter, the fleet size has grown to 39 now.

In 2013, KKR bought a 30% stake in WAS for RM642mil. Later KKR increased its stake to over 40%. However, it has since scaled it down to 21%.

Apart from KKR, Syed Azman now holds the remaining 79% stake via his direct and indirect holding in WAS.

When KKR bought WAS, it was valued at about RM1.6bil. Even a few years later when WAS was considering a listing to raise RM1bil, the company was then said to be valued at over RM2bil to RM2.5bil.

However, with a current order book worth over RM3bil that can take it through to 2027 (without contract extensions), WAS is said to be valued at between RM4bil and RM4.5bil now.

Its fleet of 39 helicopters is used to service its clients in several countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Timur Leste, Saudi Arabia, Gabon, Guinea, Namibia and Mauritania.

Some of its clients include Exxonmobil, Petronas Carigali, Shell, Saudi Aramco, Mubadala Petroleum, Petrofac, ConocoPhillips, Tullow Oil, Total, Schlumberger, JX Nippon Oil and Sapura.

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