Carlyle circles Blackstone's bid target Signature Aviation

(Reuters) – U.S. private equity firm Carlyle made a takeover approach for London-based Signature Aviation, setting the stage for a potential bidding war with Blackstone for the Bill Gates-backed company.

Signature Aviation confirmed the approach after a Sky News report here said earlier on Thursday that Carlyle had hired two Wall Street banks to help it explore a 3 billion pound ($4.07 billion) takeover offer for the company.

Signature Aviation, which is one-fifth owned by Gates’ Cascade Investment and provides full-service flight support and non-fuel services, said it had not yet received a proposal from Carlyle.

Carlyle declined to comment on the matter, while Blackstone did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Signature Aviation said last month it was in talks with Blackstone about a 3.86 pound-per-share buyout proposal, which valued it at $4.29 billion as per Reuters’ calculation. Its stock has surged 65% to 4.17 pounds since the talks were made public.

The company also said that was Blackstone’s sixth such proposal, with the first one made in February last year.

When it initially confirmed Blackstone’s proposal, Signature Aviation also said it had rebuffed an indicative proposal from U.S. company Global Infrastructure Partners about a bid that was lower than Blackstone’s. GIP said it was exploring all options in response to that.

($1 = 0.7371 pounds)

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