Terra Firma seeks to sell aircraft leasing company AWAS worth $7 bn

European private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd has aircraft leasing company Ansett Worldwide Aviation Services (AWAS) put on sale through an auction that may attract bids worth $7 billion, Reuters yesterday reported, citing unnamed sources.

Terra Firma is working with Goldman Sachs to conduct the auction and potential bidders have already been contacted, the report said.

Potential suitors could include the aviation leasing company backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, the aircraft leasing arm of China's Ping An Insurance Group and other Asian lessors, mostly Chinese, the report added.

Terra Firma, run by Guy Hands, had acquired a majority 75 per cent stake in AWAS in 2006 from Morgan Stanley in a deal worth $2.5 billion (£1.41billion).

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Canada's biggest pension fund, holds the remaining minority stake.

The sale comes more than a year after Terra Firma sold 90 commercial airliners to Australia's Macquarie Group for $4 billion.

The sale also comes a month after US lender CIT Group Inc agreed to sell its commercial air-leasing business to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group's subsidiary Avolon Holdings for $10 billion. (See: Avolon Holdings to buy aircraft leasing assets of US lender CIT Group for $10 bn) Based in Dublin, Ireland, AWAS is one of the world's largest commercial jet aircraft leasing companies with offices in Miami, New York City, and Singapore.

AWAS has more than 250 Airbus and Boeing commercial aircrafts under its portfolio, with more than 100 airline customers in 49 countries.