Takeover that keeps vital air ambulances flying is put together by Bristol professional advisers

February 15, 2024

The Bristol offices of international law firm Osborne Clarke and accountants FRP Advisory have teamed up to secure a deal that keeps critical air ambulances operating across a large part of southern England.

The team from Osborne Clarke advised Specialist Aviation Services Limited (SAS), and its joint administrators from FRP on a complex sale of the aviation provider’s business.

Headquartered at Gloucestershire Airport, SAS provided critical helicopter emergency medical and maintenance services to a number of air ambulance charities stretching from Somerset to Kent.

In total last year it supported more than 5,000 air ambulance flights.

Having hit financial difficulties last year and, following a review of its options, the firm instructed FRP and Osborne Clarke in October to run an accelerated merger and acquisition process last October.

This was aimed at finding a solution that prioritised the continuation of its vital air ambulance operations without disruption.

The complex regulatory framework of these operations meant liaising with key stakeholders, such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the air ambulance charities, global equipment providers and specialist financiers.

SAS’s business and assets were sold last month to UK-headquartered global aviation company Gama Aviation after FRP’s Andrew Sheridan and Jonathan Dunn were appointed as joint administrators.

The move not only ensured continuity of service for the air ambulance charities but saved the jobs of 182 SAS employees.

Andrew Sheridan, pictured, said: “The goal from the outset was to ensure that the vital air ambulance operations continued without disruption, which they did.

“Without the support of the CAA, which mobilised a senior team and worked at speed, this transaction could not have happened.

“We take great satisfaction in ensuring that lives continued to be saved throughout the process and wish Gama and its newly acquired operations, highly skilled operatives and pilots, every success in the future.

The Osborne Clarke team advising on contingency options and the complex sale process was led by restructuring partner Nigel Boobier with senior associate Sam Furse and legal director Claire Bundy playing key roles.

The multi-disciplinary team supporting the transaction included partners Simon Hancock, Marc Shrimpling and David North, legal director Douglas Peden, associate directors Anna Perry and Jamie Halpin and trainee solicitor Aaron Ewart.

Nigel Boobier, pictured, said the transaction highlighted important lessons for all companies with complex and international supply chains, especially with mounting economic and political instability.

“It’s important to undertake contingency planning to check on the continuity of supply, maintain resilience and to consider alternative suppliers or arrangements in the event of distress,” he added.

“It’s key is to understand the legal levers available and to appreciate the commercial dynamics, especially if new terms need to be negotiated or alternative funding needs to be provided to ensure continuity.”

Other advisers included Gordon Brothers (valuation), Pinsent Masons (director advisers), Stevens & Bolton (acting for Gama), BCLP, Brodies and Norton Rose Fulbright (acting for other key stakeholders).

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