Luxury charter operator VistaJet has secured $200 million in investment from private equity firm Rhône Capital, as part of a strategy to strengthen its balance sheet in preparation for further expansion.
The injection, which is made up of $150 million in cash and $50 million in "secondary acquisitions", gives Rhône a 7.5% stake in the Malta-headquartered company, which is valued at over $2.5 billion.
VistaJet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr describes the deal as a “major vote of confidence in the firm's strategy and business model", and puts VistaJet in a strong position to grow its market share.
Flohr has no immediate plans to spend the capital. "We don’t need the money now," he explains. "The golden rule is to raise investment when you don’t need it."
VistaJet owns and operates 72 Bombardier business jets – 29 Global 6000s, six Global 5000s, six Challenger 850s, 10 Challenger 605s and 21 Challenger 350s. It will take delivery in mid-September of another Global 6000, marking the final aircraft from a 2014 order with the Canadian airframer for 50 large-cabin, long-range and super-midsize aircraft.
"We don’t expect to place another order until 2019," say Flohr. "Our current plan is to expand our service offering and to continue to grow our customer base. The existing fleet will enable us to do that."
VistaJet recorded a 30% rise in turnover for the first half of the year, driven by the increasing popularity of its subscription-based programme. The flagship service accounts for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenues, with its on-demand offering making up the remainder.
"In 2017 we expect to perform 23,000 customer flights across the globe," says Flohr. "Within three years, we should double this number."
To help reach this goal, VistaJet has launched a new digital flight booking platform designed to minimise the number of empty legs and boost the fleet’s productivity. “Up to a third of our flights are empty at any given time," says Flohr. "Although this is much lower than the 40% industry average, it isn't an efficient use of our fleet."
The VistaJet Direct smartphone and desktop app gives customers priority access to these empty aircraft and one-way flights at preferential rates, for an annual membership fee of $10,000.
"It is the only end-to-end booking app in business aviation," says Flohr. "By matching the available flight with the customer’s itinerary, VistaJet Direct should eliminate the whole concept of empty legs, and provide a third valuable revenue stream for the company."