Piper Aircraft Inc. announces that its owner, American Capital Ltd., has sold its 100 percent stake in the company to Imprimis in a private transaction that aims to secure the long-term success of Florida's 72 year-old General Aviation company. Imprimis is a corporate finance and investment management firm that operates from its offices in Bangkok, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam.
Imprimis intends to invest significant capital in Piper's current operations to strengthen its position in its traditional markets and support the development of key new products such as the PiperJet. Imprimis was drawn to Piper because of the significant potential that it sees for Piper to expand its activities into new markets in Asia Pacific, which is expected to experience steady growth for two- to six-seat aircraft over the next five years, in part due to shifting demographics and increasing demand for pilot training from training schools and flying clubs (commercial and private). Outside of long-term plans for growing market share in Asia, the new shareholders are committed to keeping Piper's headquarters, production and product development facilities in Vero Beach, FL.
"Imprimis brings a level of support that will propel Piper from its current status as a company with a strong heritage, track record of innovation and great potential to one that is growing and pushing the envelope within General Aviation," says Piper President and CEO James K. Bass. "Imprimis' commitment to grow Piper in both existing and emerging markets comes at a time when we are poised to enter a new era in aviation history."
Imprimis Managing Partner Stephen W. Berger pointed to Piper's substantial track record and respect the company enjoys within the General Aviation industry as being among the primary reasons to acquire Piper.
"Piper's capabilities, its excellent dealer family and extensive customer base, coupled with Imprimis' capability to provide financial support, our dedication to growing the companies we invest in and our contacts within Asia provide fertile ground for Piper to expand its business in the Asian market and throughout the world," says Berger.
Berger said that Imprimis had been looking for some time to invest in an aviation company with a proven track record of prospering in the face of serious challenges. Piper has a strong order book despite challenging times thanks to its position as the only general aviation manufacturer to build and offer aircraft for every general aviation mission. Recent examples include:
- The Piper Matrix, based on the world-renowned Malibu Mirage, has been a leader in its segment (high-end, cabin-class unpressurized aircraft) and has delivered unprecedented sales in recent Piper history. The Matrix, which received Flying Magazine's Editor's Choice Award 2008, sold out its first full year of production before the first aircraft was delivered in January 2008.
- The Piper Meridian, Piper’s flagship, turboprop aircraft, this year relaunched with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite — essentially the brain of the aircraft — to excellent reviews. Much more than an upgraded aircraft, the Meridian with the G1000, its integrated autopilot (the GFC700) and Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology performs more like a business jet than a personal airplane.
- The PiperJet continues reaching new milestones with regularity. The PiperJet’s first flight took place last July. Since then, Piper test pilots have flown more than 150 hours and to 35,000 feet, where they assessed and in the months ahead will continue to explore the high altitude performance of the aircraft. Piper has 204 contracted orders for the PiperJet, which is more than the company had for the highly successful Piper Meridian at this point in its development.
"Piper's iconic status, coupled with its commitment to product innovation, excellent quality and a management team and workforce second-to-none made it a compelling choice," says Berger. "Imprimis sees this acquisition as a perfect fit as we develop plans for Piper’s continued growth in its existing markets and for significant expansion within the Asian markets where much of our focus lies."
Another top priority for Imprimis was a proven track record for innovation and bringing excellent products to market, says Berger.
"Even with the existing worldwide economic recession — and the toll it has taken on General Aviation, including Piper — Piper remains strong and well-run, with a strong balance sheet, a comprehensive product line, and a workforce dedicated to providing its customers with excellent products and services," says Berger. "At the same time, Piper has extensive expertise in international markets and the facility to expand into new and emerging markets as well — all essential to our search criteria."
One of three major U.S. manufacturers of general aviation aircraft, Piper currently manufactures seven models: the Warrior III, Arrow, Seminole, Seneca V, Matrix, Mirage, and Meridian. The company is also developing the PiperJet.