Receivers secure 'good price' for Helicopters (NZ)

Receivers of failed South Canterbury Finance have made their first major sale with a Canadian company paying about $160 million for Helicopters (NZ) Ltd, It was an asset ceded to South Canterbury by the finance company's founder, Allan Hubbard.

Toronto stock exchange-listed Canadian Helicopters Ltd is Canada's largest helicopter transportation service company, with more than 35 bases and 122 helicopters servicing infrastructure maintenance, utilities, oil and gas, mining, forestry, construction, emergency medical and military support sectors.

Helicopters (NZ) Ltd, founded in 1955 with one helicopter, grew to a fleet of 38 that operated in New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia and the Antarctic.

For the year to December, HNZ had revenue of $83 million and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $28 million; while the 33 helicopters it owned had a valuation of $137 million.

Kerryn Downey and William Black, of McGrathNicol, said yesterday the Canadian company was selected through a competitive process, and while the sale was subject to several conditions, including regulatory approvals, it was expected to be completed in a few months.

"This has been a very robust process and we are very pleased to have identified such a credible purchaser and achieved what we believe is a good price for the business," the receivers said yesterday.

Last June, the Government seized control of the affairs of millionaire South Island financier Mr Hubbard when then Commerce Minister Simon Power ordered Aorangi Securities, seven associated charitable trusts, and the affairs of Mr Hubbard and his wife, Margaret, to be placed in statutory management under the control of accountancy firm Grant Thornton.

The Serious Fraud Office is still investigating Aorangi Securities Ltd for potential breaches of the Crimes Act.

The 85-year-old South Canterbury Finance subsequently collapsed on August 31 and was placed in the hands of receivers after failing to recapitalise itself, triggering a Government injection of $1.775 billion to repay 35,000 investors and creditors.

The Government payout to cover South Canterbury was by far the largest of eight made under the emergency retail deposit guarantee scheme.

In February last year, as part of a recapitalisation plan, Mr Hubbard sold 100% of HNZ and 64% of the shares in Scales Corp to South Canterbury for 317.7 million newly issued fully paid shares worth $152.5 million and $10 million cash.

Mr Hubbard will get no return from the 317.7 million shares. The idea was to shore up teetering South Canterbury with solid, performing companies, making it attractive to would-be investors.

For their respective full-year results, which totalled almost $30 million in after-tax profits, HNZ reported a $16.2 million profit and Scales $13.6 million.


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