Avolon Holdings to buy CIT Group's aircraft leasing unit for $10 billion

(Reuters) - Avolon Holdings Ltd, part of China's acquisitive HNA Group, said on Thursday it agreed to buy the aircraft leasing business of CIT Group Inc CIT.N for $10 billion to create the world's third-largest aircraft leasing company.

Traders gather for the IPO of Avolon Holdings Ltd. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange December 12, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Avolon said it will pay $10 billion for the $9.4 billion net asset value of CIT Group’s leasing unit, representing a premium of 6.7 percent.

CIT Group’s shares were up 7.58 percent at $39.16 in extended trading.

The transaction will be funded by a combination of Avolon's cash, new equity contributed by HNA Group-controlled Bohai Leasing Co Ltd 000415.SZ and debt financing of $8.5 billion.

AerCap Holdings AER.N and General Electric Co's GE.N GE Capital Aviation Services are the world's leading aircraft lessors.

The deal comes after Reuters reported in September that Avolon was nearing a purchase of CIT's aerospace assets, which were also being pursued by China's Ping An Insurance Group's 601318.SS aircraft leasing arm, and Century Tokyo Leasing 8439.T - a joint venture partner of CIT.

Avolon’s deal builds on a series of acquisitions made by Chinese aviation and shipping conglomerate HNA Group in recent years as it bulks up its global presence.

The deal also marks another victory for Hudson Executive Capital, the activist hedge fund founded by two former JPMorgan bankers last year. Hudson held 1.2 million shares of CIT, or around 0.5 percent of the stock, according to the fund’s latest regulatory filing.

According to people familiar with the matter, Hudson was among the investors pressing CIT Group to sell off the aircraft leasing arm. The fund has also pressed the company to shed its rail business and lending operations, sources said.

Other recent Hudson victories include France’s Danone agreeing to buy White Wave Foods Co, one of Hudson’s portfolio companies, in July for $10.4 billion. A month earlier Medtronic Inc agreed to buy another Hudson portfolio company, HeartWare International Inc, for $1.1 billion.

The latest transaction will double the scale of Avolon, Chief Executive Dómhnal Slattery said.

The combined entity will have a fleet of 910 aircraft valued at over $43 billion, Avolon said in a statement on Thursday.

CIT Group’s aircraft leasing business had total assets of $11.1 billion and liabilities of $1.7 billion as of June 30. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

Avolon’s financial advisers for the transaction were UBS Investment Bank and Morgan Stanley & Co LLC. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted as its legal advisers.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore and Michael Flaherty in New York; Additional reporting by Narottam Medhora, Diptendu Lahiri and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Bill Rigby