Planemaker Beechcraft goes on the block

NEW YORK — Beechcraft Corp., the U.S. planemaker that emerged from bankruptcy protection this year, is for sale again, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Credit Suisse Group is contacting potential suitors on their interest in acquiring Beechcraft, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Beechcraft may fetch about $1.5 billion, another person said. Cessna Aircraft parent Textron Inc. is among companies exploring a bid, said two of the people.

Slumping demand for private jets and curbs on U.S. defense spending led the company, formerly known as Hawker Beechcraft, to file for bankruptcy in May 2012. Negotiations to sell it for $1.79 billion to a Chinese buyer collapsed months later. Beechcraft exited court protection in February and has publicly said it’s selling some assets to focus on propeller-driven and military planes.

Beechcraft could be a good fit for Textron, whose holdings include Bell helicopters, military drones and golf carts, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said after the Chinese bid for Beechcraft was made public.

“I think some of the assets of the company are interesting and would be a good fit in our company and that we could do the right thing for their existing customers and our customers — it would all work,” Donnelly said during a July 2012 quarterly earnings call.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment. Nicole Alexander, a spokeswoman for Beechcraft, and David Sylvestre, a spokesman for Providence, Rhode Island-based Textron, both declined to comment.

Beechcraft, based in Wichita, Kansas, is now controlled by its former creditors. Centerbridge Partners, Sankaty Advisors and Angelo, Gordon &Co. are among the funds that own a combined stake of about 90 percent, according to the company. Before bankruptcy, Hawker Beechcraft was owned by Goldman Sachs and Onex Corp.

Creditors took over after the company exited bankruptcy earlier this year. Negotiations to sell Hawker Beechcraft to Superior Aviation Beijing Co. collapsed in 2012 while the planemaker was reorganizing, partly because of questions about the Chinese company’s financing, people familiar with the process said at the time.

Beechcraft, whose competitors include Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Brazil’s Embraer, is now seeing a recovery in demand and estimates first-half deliveries rose 67 percent to 115 airplanes. Sales of King Air turboprops will help drive up revenue and earnings “materially” this year and the next, Standard &Poor’s said in April.

Any deal involving Beechcraft’s defense assets being sold to non-U.S. suitors would be subject to a review from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Beechcraft had announced earlier plans to sell by the end of the year assets from its shuttered Hawker and Premier IA jet units, including certificates, spare parts and a manufacturing plant, Alexander said.

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