Utair can part with a helicopter daughter

Russia's largest helicopter operator is estimated at 30 billion rubles.
Since last fall, Utair has been negotiating with 11 banks on the restructuring of three loans worth 56.5 billion rubles, for which the airline has defaulted. Lenders offer Utair to think about selling its largest asset, UTair - Helicopter Services (UTWU), the largest in Russia and one of the largest helicopter operators in the world. About this "Vedomosti" told three bankers.

According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, the helicopter fleet of Russian airlines is 2,707 vehicles, of which 205 are in YUTVU park. YUTVU also has subsidiary helicopter companies in Peru and Slovakia, together with them the company's fleet exceeds 320 helicopters, according to its website.

In the aircraft segment, Utair takes the 4th place in Russia after the Aeroflot group, S7 and Ural Airlines, in January-April it carried 2.26 million passengers.

The idea of ​​selling YUTVU is being discussed, but the lenders do not put forward such demands, this is a complex topic, say three sources of Vedomosti. First, YUTVU is a large asset, unparalleled and very difficult to assess, two bankers explain. According to rough estimates, YUTVU can cost from 10 billion to 30 billion rubles, they add. Although the upper estimate of 20 billion rubles. It seems more realistic, clarifies one of the interlocutors.

Utair, of course, does not want to sell a helicopter "daughter" and the main argument is that the buyer does not have such a large asset, the banker continues. But a syndicate of banks suggests at least initiating preliminary negotiations, testing the market. Utair's largest helicopter services customers are oil and gas companies. Until recently, the controlling stake in Utair belonged to the Surgutneftegaz pension fund; in 2018, the fund was reformed and now belongs to a natural person - Valery Yefimov. The aviation industry and bankers believe that Surgutneftegaz retains influence on Utair, but formally the oil company remained only the carrier’s creditor — it owes it 6 billion rubles.

Gazprom has a helicopter business - in the park of its subsidiary, Gazprom Avia, according to Rosaviatsiya, 63 helicopters.

Another question is whether Utair will survive without a helicopter business, which forms the majority of the company's consolidated EBITDA, say two bankers. To repay the entire debt of funds from the sale of YUTVU, it is not enough and it is not clear whether the company will be able to pay at least some interest without a helicopter subsidiary, they explain.
100% of YUTVU's shares are pledged on two syndicated loans of 11 banks for 39.1 billion rubles, with the approval of banks, which account for 66.7% of syndicated loans, recovery may be levied on a helicopter company, says one of the bankers. In February, the issue of foreclosure of collateral was already submitted to the creditors committee, but then the bankers voted against. Another 17.4 billion rubles. Utair owes Sberbank, this loan is guaranteed by Surgutneftegaz structures.

In March, Utair asked the syndicate to write off 31.4 billion rubles, or 80% of syndicated loans. In May, the airline made a new offer - not to write off, but to transfer the repayment of 31.4 billion rubles. for 35 years. This also does not suit lenders; legally, such a prolongation is no different from a write-off, two bankers say. Lenders made a counter claim - a guarantee for syndicated loans of Surgutneftegaz or the government of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (the second largest shareholder of Utair with a 38.8% package), but Utair said that there would be no guarantees, the interlocutors continue.

Other non-core assets of Utair that can be sold are a controlling stake in Surgut Airport and a service operator for airlines in Vnukovo, Yu-Ti. The sale of the latter may bring about 1 billion rubles, the airport - 2-3 billion, maybe more, but the airport Utair also does not want to sell, say two bankers.

A Utair representative did not respond to the request. “The company must repay the debt, using all the possibilities for this, the sale of assets is certainly one of the tools. It is desirable that Utair, retaining the business, pay off creditors or reduce the debt to a manageable size, ”said the representative of Trust Bank, the largest participant in the syndicate.

“Helicopter services are more liquid business of the Utair group compared to passenger traffic. The sale of the helicopter company would not solve the carrier’s problems, but only postponed the existing financial and social risks. At the same time, the risks themselves would have significantly increased, ”said Fyodor Borisov, a leading researcher at the Higher School of Economics.

The representative of Sberbank declined to comment, representatives of Russia, MKB, Unicredit Bank, Svyaz Bank, MTS Bank, Surgutneftegazbank, Uralsib, Bank Rus, and Niko Bank did not respond to requests.