Bristow, “business as usual” and buyouts

Bristow Caribbean

Amidst its current Chapter 11 proceedings, Bristow Group has embodied the ‘business as usual’ approach. Within the last week, it has secured new financing from its noteholders and has appointed a new general counsel.

On Friday last week, Bristow announced it had entered into an amended restructuring agreement with some of its secured and unsecured note holders to fund a new debtor-in-position (DIP) facility.

The new financing will be used to reduce debt, to fund its continuing operations and to allow further investments in safety and reliability.

Alongside this announcement, Bristow President and CEO Don Miller issued this statement to shareholders: “We have successfully brought together holders of both our Secured Notes and our Unsecured Notes to achieve a meaningful milestone in our reorganization, and one that positions Bristow for a timely emergence from Chapter 11.”

The last we heard from Bristow, it had – after much delay – published its 10-Q and 10-K filings after a number of delays resulting from a potential material weakness in its reporting. After finally publishing the reports, the company revealed that the weakness had not resulted in any misreporting.

The company also announced that it had secured a new five-year offshore transport contract with BP in May. As part of the contract, Bristow is supporting all of BP’s North Sea transport operations alongside Eastern Airways.

Miller continued: “Upon completion of this recapitalization, we will have a much stronger balance sheet with significantly lower debt levels and improved liquidity, which will enable us to continue to fund operations through the reorganization process and position Bristow to be an even better business partner, employer and trusted service provider in the future.

“This will continue to be a seamless transition for our clients, as we continue to operate as usual throughout our global organization, and remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering safe, reliable and professional service.”

A sign of things to come

The group has also made a new hire – appointing General Electric veteran Victoria Lazar as its new senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. In her role, she will be responsible for the legal, corporate compliance and insurance responsibilities of the business.

Lazar’s background is in mergers and acquisitions – working as associate general counsel for GE Oil & Gas. In her time in the petroleum business, she oversaw the combination of the two legal parties in one of the biggest mergers the market has ever seen – the acquisition of Baker Hughes by GE. The $30 billion buyout was approved in June 2017.

With two of the largest oil and gas helicopter operators in the market (Bristow and PHI) currently going through Chapter 11 and the recent acquisition of helicopter lessor Waypoint Leasing by Macquarie Bank, consolidation is the hot topic in the offshore oil and gas helicopter market.

Reinforcing this, Bristow Group CEO Don Miller said: “Victoria’s extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, market transactions and integrations will be an asset to Bristow as we emerge from our financial restructuring and look to address some of the industry’s biggest challenges like market consolidation, diversification and market oversupply.”

Whilst it is too early to call whether Bristow is seeking a buyer, the cards are in place. However, consolidation is unlikely until all Chapter 11s are resolved and balance sheets are corrected across the market.