US Ex-Im grants largest helicopter financing to Milestone

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The US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is providing a $187.4 million guarantee for a capital markets bond deal to finance the export of Sikorsky S-92 helicopters to Dublin-based Milestone Aviation.

The deal marks Ex-Im's largest financing of US-manufactured commercial helicopters and its first support of these exports to a helicopter-leasing company, says the export credit agency. It is also the first Ex-Im-guaranteed bond issuance in the capital markets to fund helicopter exports.

"We are proud to have been selected by Ex-Im Bank as the partner for its largest helicopter financing and the first capital markets transaction to support the export of US-manufactured helicopters," says Milestone Aviation chairman Richard Santulli. "The support of Ex-Im Bank has been instrumental in helping us place Sikorsky aircraft internationally and given us the confidence to order more units of the world-class S-92."

Deutsche Bank Securities was the sole structuring agent and the lead book runner for the bond issuance on 22 May. The bond was priced at par to yield 1.87%.

The exports were initially financed by a commercial bridge facility that will be replaced by the funds raised by the issuance of the capital-markets bond, says Ex-Im.

The helicopters are being delivered under a number of separate contracts, both directly with the Milestone Aviation and as part of sale and leaseback agreements.

The end-users are five different Milestone customers, and the S-92 helicopters will be operated in the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil. Deliveries began in November 2012 and end in May 2013.

"The Sikorsky S-92 is a modern design, heavy-lift rotorcraft that brings economic efficiencies to our operators, and it is a very important part of the oil-and-gas and search-and-rescue market segments. Ex-Im Bank's capital-markets financing facilitates the business transaction of this large capital investment. This financing vehicle makes the S-92 helicopter an even better fit for our customers," says Bob Kokorda, vice president of sales for Sikorsky.