Two bidders shortlisted to acquire CityJet

ASL Aviation and Intro Aviation in hunt to acquire Swords-based airline

Air France KLM is believed to have shortlisted two bidders to acquire its Swords-based airline subsidiary CityJet.

The Irish Times has learned that Dublin-based ASL Aviation and Intro Aviation in Germany are the two groups shortlisted for the deal.

These bids have emerged from an initial list of close to 20 parties that expressed an interest in CityJet. This was whittled down to six, and then to two. It is understood a preferred bidder could be chosen by the end of this month. This group would then enter into exclusive talks with Air France KLM.

Dublin-based operation
ASL was founded in the 1970s in the UK but relocated to Ireland in 1997. It is 51 per cent owned by Compagnie Maritime Belge, a Belgian shipping company, and 49 per cent by 3P Air Freighters Ltd, an aircraft leasing company incorporated in Dublin.


Its operations include Irish cargo airline Air Contractors, which has 32 aircraft; France’s Europe Airpost, a charter operator that runs flights from Ireland; and Safair, an aircraft leasing company acquired in 2010 from Aergo Capital, which is majority owned by Denis O’Brien.

In 2011, ASL reported a net profit of €30.4 million from turnover of €407 million.

Coincidentally, ASL is based in Swords, where CityJet’s head office is located.

Intro Aviation has positioned itself as a strategic investor in airlines and as a consultancy/turnaround specialist in the sector.

Previous acquisitions
Its investments over the past decade have included acquiring Deutsche BA from British Airways, and part-ownership of LTU, a German airline now owned by Air Berlin. It has recently been linked with a majority takeover of Slovenia's Adria Airways.

No comment was available from CityJet about the bidding process.

When contacted about its interest in CityJet, Intro Aviation’s managing director Peter Oncken said: “We principally never comment on any potential acquisition projects.”

ASL declined to comment.

While headquartered here, CityJet’s main operational base is London City Airport, where it operates flights to 21 European destinations, including Dublin.

CityJet made a pre-tax loss of €8.9 million on turnover of €238 million in the nine months to the end of December 2011.

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times