The Australian Helicopters journey
Australian Helicopters, flying 21 twin-engine helicopters from eight bases, is Australia’s largest on-shore helicopter operator, providing emergency medical services,customs aerial surveillance, search and rescue, military defence training and response, and marine pilot transfer. With the management team’s specialist knowledge, the business was positioned to lead the provision of critical aviation services.
The Growth Fund recognised that, if properly capitalised to tender for capital intensive contracts, the business could establish high barriers to entry and realise the competitive and economic benefits of operational leverage. In 2008, The Growth Fund backed the management team – led by Neil Shea and Brigadier General Bob Millar – in an MBO of the company.
Supplied with $24 million of growth capital, the business commissioned additional purpose built twin-engine helicopters, expanded geographically with new flight bases in Victoria and won long-term full-service Government contracts.
The combination of capital, strategic redirection and the strong performance of the management team enabled the company to double earnings in an 18 month period and to establish Australian Helicopters as the leading provider of helicopter services to Australian Government agencies.
In 2010, having enhanced barriers to entry and secured its status as the #1 operator in its niche, the business was acquired by European helicopter operator INAER as a platform for expansion into Asia. The exit of Australian Helicopters produced a 63% annual return for investors and delivered the management team a 9x return on their investment.