US-based companies Bristow Group, owner of Bristow US (L9, New Iberia) and the UK's Bristow Helicopters (BHL, Aberdeen Dyce), and Era Group have agreed to merge in an all-stock transaction, “creating a financially stronger company with enhanced size and diversification” in offshore oil and gas transportation, search and rescue, and support services to civil organisations, less than three months after Bristow exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Under the terms of the deal, Bristow shareholders will own 77% of the equity of the new company, while Era shareholders will own 23%, the two companies said in a statement dated January 24. Chris Bradshaw, president and CEO of Era, will head the combined company, which will be headquartered in Houston.

When it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early November, Bristow Group claimed it had significantly reduced its debt and emerged with USD535 million in new capital. It also said it had amended and reinstated a USD75 million term loan.

Now, the combined company, which will be named Bristow, will generate at least USD35 million in annual cost synergies “through the elimination of redundant corporate expenses and the realisation of enhanced operational efficiencies,” the statement said. It will “strengthen its global leadership position with significant operations throughout the Americas, Nigeria, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Australia.”

“This merger achieves more efficient absorption of the significant fixed costs required to run an air carrier and better positions the combined company to manage industry challenges,” Bradshaw said.

The combined fleet will include “more than 300 of the industry’s most modern aircraft” creating “the world’s largest operator” of Sikorsky Aircraft S92, AW189, and AW139 helicopters, according to the statement. The fleet will be more than 80% owned.

Era also announced a stock buyback programme that will allow for the purchase of USD10 million of its shares.