Blackstone Announces Acquisition of a Majority Stake in Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways

New York and Male, February 3 2013: Blackstone (NYSE: BX) 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 is a popular tourist destination with over 1,000 islands. With a unique ‘one–island one–resort’ concept, 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 Hulhule International airport. 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.”

Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) and HSBC (NYSE:HBC) served as buy-side advisors on the transaction. The sellers were advised by Churchill Capital and Northern Lights.

About Blackstone
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About Maldivian Air Taxi
Maldivian Air Taxi was set up in 1992 to provide sea plane transfer services in Maldives. Based in the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, MAT operates over 20 De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft. It offers a wide range of services from excursions to photo flights and charters, in addition to providing transfer services for tourists arriving in Maldives. See for more details.

About Trans Maldivian Airways
The company was started in 1988, as a helicopter operator under the name Hummingbird in Maldives. In 1998, Lars Petré, Hussain Afeef and Mohammed Moosa invested in the company and rebranded it to Trans Maldivian Airways and changed the fleet to Twin Otter only. It currently operates over 20 Twin Otters. During 2011, TMA took delivery of three brand new DHCâ€6â€400 aircraft. TMA operates its own Sea Plane Terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, with 13 exclusive lounges for select resorts.        

for more details.

For more information, please contact:

Peter Rose
New York
+ 1 212 583 5871
[email protected]

Trans Maldivian Airways
Ahmad Latheef
+ 960 334 8414
[email protected]