Blackstone looks to sell Maldives seaplane operator

US venture capital firm Blackstone is considering a sale of its stake in the Maldives’ main seaplane operator Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), media reports have said.

Citing people with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg said Blackstone was exploring options for TMA, including a possible sale, after receiving takeover interest in the company from private equity firms as well as strategic buyers. Blackstone was working with a financial adviser to gauge interest from potential suitors for the seaplane operator, it added.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, a deal could be valued at at least USD 1 billion, but no final decisions have yet been made. Blackstone may decide to keep the business, the people that spoke to the US-based business publication said.

Blackstone in 2013 acquired controlling stakes in two Maldives-based seaplane operators – Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways – and merged the two under the TMA brand.

Reports of a possible sale of TMA come months after Chinese conglomerate Zongshen Industrial Group (ZIG) announced plans to acquire a stake in TMA.

TMA, which is the largest seaplane operator in the world, operates an all-amphibian fleet of one DHC-6-100, one DHC-6-200, 41 DHC-6-300s, and three DHC-6-400s on regular flights throughout the Maldivian archipelago.

In 2016, TMA operated over 120,000 flights, transferring close to a million passengers, including 80,000 residents.

In addition to TMA, Maldives’ flagship carrier Maldivian also operates a fleet of nine seaplanes.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in the outer atolls.

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