BBA Aviation is positioning itself “at the forefront” of developments in urban air mobility as it transitions from a broader aviation portfolio to a company focused on its high-performing Signature brand.
Speaking to investors during BBA Aviation’s half year 2019 earnings conference call on Aug. 5, group CEO Mark Johnstone said the company is “very excited” about its strategic partnership with Uber Elevate, which is one of the ways in which BBA is building “a strong platform for sustainable growth.”
Uber and BBA’s Signature Flight Support announced their partnership at the Uber Elevate Summit in June. Signature currently operates the world’s largest fixed base operation (FBO) network, providing fuel, ground handling, and other services to business and general aviation aircraft across the globe. As Uber Elevate’s first nationwide operations and on-airport infrastructure partner, Signature will support operations at the skyports where Uber’s eVTOL air taxis will pick up and drop off passengers.
“They’re coming to us because we know how to run an FBO. How do you get in the old days fuel, but in the new days, electricity,” Johnstone explained during the earnings call.
In the meantime, Signature is also providing labor and ground support for Uber Copter’s helicopter shuttles out of Lower Manhattan, which Uber is using as a proving ground for its digital products as it prepares for wider deployment of eVTOL air taxis.
According to Johnstone, Signature is not “investing in new facilities or building them on the tops of buildings, etc.” Instead, he said, the company is leveraging its skills and expertise to expand its network “on an asset-light basis.” Meanwhile, the company is also actively engaging with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), which is one of the organizations playing a leading role in the development of eVTOL aircraft and urban air mobility. As Johnstone put it, “We’re positioning our employees in the right places to make sure these conversations are held with us.”
Johnstone said that this continued investment in BBA’s future is enabled by the strong free cash flow generation from its businesses — nearly $107 million in the first half of the year, with the majority of that coming from Signature. The brand will become even more important to BBA with its sale of Ontic, an aerospace parts provider, to CVC Fund VII in a nearly $1.4 billion transaction that is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.
“This portfolio simplification will enhance our focus on our market-leading, high-quality Signature business,” Johnstone said.