Seaplane operators to be merged: Blackstone takes majority stake in Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways

Maldives Promotion House – Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX), the big U.S.-based asset manager today announced that a private equity fund managed by Blackstone on behalf of its private equity investors has acquired a controlling interest in two Maldives-based seaplane operators – Maldivian Air Taxi “MAT” and Trans Maldivian Airways “TMA”. Following the transaction, Mr. Lars Erik Nielsen (Founder, MAT), Mr. Lars Petré and Mr. Hussain Afeef (majority shareholders, TMA) will retain a substantial shareholding and continue to play a significant role in the companies, including serving as directors on the board. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Maldives has witnessed a strong increase in tourist arrivals over the last ten years with 2012 witnessing an all-time high tourist arrival of almost one million tourists. Established in 1989, TMA is the oldest air services operator in the Maldives and operates over 20 seaplanes. Established in 1992, Maldivian Air Taxi has grown to become the biggest seaplane operator in the world. Together the two airlines will operate 44 seaplanes and conduct well over 100,000 flights per year making them the world’s largest Twin Otter operator on land or sea. MAT and TMA connect resort islands with the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Malé. Both airlines are based on the Hulhule Airport Island in Maldives and together employ over 900 people.

Prakash Melwani, Senior Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer at Blackstone’s Private Equity unit based in New York, said “Maldives is a unique and highly desirable holiday destination. Our investment in MAT and TMA will enable us to build a strong partnership with the Maldives. We have been impressed by the quality of the management teams of both companies and the sophistication of their operations. We are excited to partner with MAT and TMA, whose seaplane operations have contributed significantly to the development of resort islands further away from Male and making them accessible to tourists. Blackstone manages, through its portfolio companies, the largest number of hotel rooms in the world and this transaction marks our sustained enthusiasm for the travel and tourism space.”

Mr. Lars Petré (Chairman, TMA) said, “We have partnered with Blackstone, one of the leading private equity firms in the world, to help take our business and tourism in the Maldives to the next level. The Maldivian economy will gain from the presence of one of the world’s largest and most respected investment firms.”

Mr. Lars Nielsen, (Chairman, MAT), said “We are extremely happy to partner with Blackstone in the combined enterprise. With their strong network and operational focus, Blackstone will contribute significant value to the venture. This will be beneficial to the employees and enhance their career growth. In addition, together we look forward to delivering more efficient services to the tourists coming to the Maldives and the resorts in which they are staying. This combination will increase service efficiency to our resorts.”

Mr. Hussain Afeef (Director, TMA), further added “We are committed to playing a significant role in building the tourism industry in the Maldives. Blackstone will bring to Maldives a wide global experience and an established track record in the tourism and hospitality sector. Incorporating global best practices would be beneficial not just to the companies but to the tourism industry, in general.”

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