(New throughout, updates share price, adds background, analyst note)
Dec 20 (Reuters) - Textron Inc, maker of Cessna planes, has agreed to buy aircraft maker Beechcraft for $1.4 billion, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.
Textron's shares closed nearly 15 percent higher on the news, ending the day $4.72 higher at $37.29.
Beechcraft emerged from bankruptcy protection in February and hired Credit Suisse to seek buyers for its jet plane business, which has been losing money, according to sources familiar with the effort.
Officials at both Textron and Beechcraft declined to comment.
The two companies have been in discussions for some time but initially had differences about the price and scope of the deal, the sources said.
One source familiar with the M&A market said a Textron-Beechcraft deal was one of many that could be announced in coming weeks. It would be the larger deal after a U.S. budget agreement that experts say could set off the most robust series of mergers and acquisitions in the aerospace and defense sector in years.
"The budget deal has really lit the fuse for a spate of deals that could be announced between now and Jan. 15," said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The deals could range in size, and could even involve a much larger deal at the prime contractor level, said the source.
Rob Stallard, analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said Textron had paid down its debt in recent year and had the capacity to carry out a deal of this size. He said the remaining Beechcraft business should complement that of Cessna.
The increase in Textron's share price showed "investors are indicating that they view this as a 'good deal,'" Stallard wrote in a note to investors.
Textron spokesman David Sylvestre said Textron CEO Scott Donnelly had told analysts on the past two earnings calls that Textron was interested in Beechcraft and was continuing to monitor the situation.
He declined to comment further, noting that it was Textron's policy not to comment on speculative market rumors. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott and Andrea Shalal-esa; Editing by John Wallace and David Gregorio)