REUTERS: A bidding war for Signature Aviation took a new twist on Friday as former Gatwick owner GIP joined forces with Blackstone and Bill Gates' investment vehicle on an offer valuing the private jet services firm at US$4.73 billion.
Signature said it was recommending the new proposal and had withdrawn its support for a previous offer by GIP, which last month raised its bid to US$5.50 per share.
This topped a US$5.17 joint offer last month by Blackstone and Signature's top shareholder, Cascade.
The latest offer of US$5.62 per share could end a months-long takeover battle for London-listed Signature, which at one point attracted interest from private equity firm Carlyle.
"We await with interest to see whether Carlyle or any other interested party make a higher offer," Peel Hunt analysts said.
The latest cash offer is to buy all of Signature's shares other than the 19.01per cent owned by Cascade Investment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust.
Signature's shares were were down 2.7per cent at 413 pence by 0841 GMT, but still above the new 411 pence (US$5.62) offer price.
Interest from big buyout firms comes as the private jet industry is faring better than commercial airlines as wealthy travellers avoid crowded planes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signature rejected an initial approach from New York-based GIP in December, saying the price was lower than the proposal outlined by Blackstone.
The stock has jumped nearly 60per cent since Blackstone's takeover interest was first disclosed in December, which Signature then said was its sixth such proposal.
GIP, which still manages a 49.99per cent stake in Gatwick, and Blackstone will each own 35per cent of the Signature bidding consortium, while Cascade will own 30per cent.
(US$1 = 0.7299 pounds)
(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alexander Smith)