US bankruptcy court allows airport owning Bristow to trade on

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 16 May 2019

Humberside Airport owner Bristow Group has received approvals from the US Bankruptcy Court to aid its reorganisation.

“First day” relief motions have been approved Stateside, allowing it to pay employees and suppliers, to enable it to operate.

As reported, the company intends to use the protective proceedings, known as a Voluntary Chapter 11, to restructure and strengthen its balance sheet.

Entering the procedure, it jettisoned Eastern Airways, the Kirmington-based regional airline it acquired back in 2014 along with the northern Lincolnshire airport, with founder Richard Lake OBE taking back control

The airport is understood to be not part of the 11th hour deal ahead of the Texan Southern District filing - with a price tag significantly less than the £27 million paid five years ago.

Having been hit by a slump in the oil and gas market, Bristow’s financial woes were compounded when the company was found to be in breach of leases after helicopters and their engines were interchanged.  Such was the extent of the problem, it was unable to file its fourth quarter results from 2018, and still hasn’t, which led to it being in breach of NYSE rules. The share price then bottomed out, putting it in further breach of Wall Street regulations.

UK operations, including both Humberside Airport and the search and rescue Maritime Coastguard Agency contract, are exempt from the action, with six legal entities included – not least the parent holding company.

It is understood discussions have been held at airport board level as to what could potentially happen in the future, should a re-organisation fail - or not include the facility - which handles 18,000 flights and just over 190,000 passengers annually.

Humberside is emerging as a crucial hub for the offshore wind sector, as farms emerge further out to sea, making helicopter transfers more economical than those by vessel.  It is a strong antidote to a painful passenger picture. 

Since it has been in Bristow ownership, annual figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show a decrease of 46,000 travellers, to 192,526 in 2018, and 9,000 aircraft movements - down a third - to 18,759.

A modest increase was reported in the past 12 months, with the vast majority of travellers on the growing Amsterdam service, with figures up 7.6 per cent to 127,000 in 2018. While other previous modest year-on-year uplifts have been seen - particularly as the UK came out of recession - a general trend of decline is clear since 2006, when Doncaster Sheffield Airport opened fully at the opposite end of the M180.  It welcomes 1.2 million people annually. 

On the search and rescue front, a Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: "Bristow Group is a minority shareholder in the UK-based Bristow Helicopters Ltd which operates the UK search and rescue helicopter contract.  It is the Bristow Group which has voluntarily entered Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection under United States Law.

"Bristow Helicopters Ltd is entirely unaffected by these recent developments.  Both the Group and the UK-based Bristow Helicopters Ltd continue to operate as normal. Therefore there will be no job losses in the UK SAR helicopter service as a result of these developments, nor will there will any reduction in the quality of the service provided."

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