Blackstone, Bill Gates join hands for Signature Aviation bid as Carlyle circles

FILE PHOTO: The ticker and trading information for Blackstone Group is displayed at the post where it is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) -Blackstone Group Inc on Friday secured the support of Bill Gates, the biggest shareholder in Signature Aviation, bolstering its bid to buy the private-jet servicing company in the face of a rival approach from Carlyle.

Blackstone’s agreement with Gates’ Cascade Investment Llc for its $4.29 billion offer comes just hours after Signature confirmed Carlyle’s takeover approach.

Blackstone and Cascade, which owns a near 20% stake in London-based Signature, are in advanced talks with the company about their proposal that involves a cash offer of 3.81 pounds per share, Blackstone said.

Shares in the company formerly known as BBA Aviation fell 5% to 4 pounds on the FTSE 250 midcap index by 0804 GMT, giving up some of their 65% gain in the three weeks since Signature Aviation confirmed talks with Blackstone.

Carlyle did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The 3.81-pounds-per-share bid is Blackstone’s sixth proposal, Signature Aviation disclosed last month, when it also rebuffed another proposal from Global Infrastructure Partners.

Blackstone said the terms of its agreement with Cascade also contained voting arrangements such that Cascade will vote against any competing proposal after a firm bid is made Blackstone.

As per UK takeover rules, Blackstone and Cascade are required to either announce a firm intention to make an offer or walk away by Jan. 14.

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