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PAI eyes $3.9 billion disposal of cargo firm Swissport as soon as year end: Reuters

(Reuters) — European private equity firm PAI is looking to launch a sale or stock market listing of airplane cargo handler Swissport as soon as the end of this year, four sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Zurich-based Swissport says it is the world’s largest aviation handling company. A deal could value the business at about 3.5 billion euros ($3.93 billion), one of the sources said.

The process has yet to be launched and no advisor has been appointed, but PAI has privately told people outside the company that it is seeking to start a disposal process at the end of this year or in early 2016, two sources said.

A spokesman for PAI declined to comment. Swissport did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A valuation of 3.5 billion euros would give it a multiple of about 13.5 times core earnings (EBITDA), which stands at around 260 million euros, two sources said.

France-based PAI bought Swissport from Ferrovial (FER.MC) for an enterprise value of about 880 million euros in 2010, valuing it at almost 11 times earnings.

Swissport’s Group President and Chief Executive Per H. Utnegaard is due to be replaced by Eric Born, formerly of UK logistics company Wincanton (WIN.L). Utnegaard will continue as vice chairman of its board of directors.

In 2013 Swissport acquired Servisair. The combined company now provides ground services for around 229 million passengers a year across 265 airports in 45 countries worldwide. It has grown from 23,000 employees in 2007 to around 60,000 now.

“They will finish integrating their small acquisitions and then launch a process,” another source said.

Last year Swissport had high-profile problems at Gatwick airport, with some passengers left without their luggage, causing some clients to terminate their contracts.

PAI has embarked on something of a selling spree in recent months. PAI is also examining options for Dutch lingerie firm Hunkemoller and German building materials firm Xella.

PAI has already had a successful fundraising this year, closing its sixth fund at 3.3 billion euros, more than originally planned.

(Reporting By Freya Berry and Arno Schuetze; editing by Pamela Barbaglia and Susan Thomas)