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Wed, Sep 19, 2007

Columbia Aircraft Ownership Change 'May Be Imminent'

Three Parties Are Reported To Be Vying For Columbia... Including Cessna's Parent Company, Textron

Columbia Aircraft, manufacturers of a highly regarded line of high-performance GA piston aircraft, may be changing hands as early as today. Numerous sources on both sides of the table report that at least three parties are attempting to gain control of the company via a number of options. The Ministry of Finance of Malaysia reportedly owns more than 90 percent of Columbia Aircraft and has been looking for buyers for "quite a while." Recently though, Columbia's Board, working under the direction of CEO Wan Abd Majid, has been meeting over the past several days in an effort to respond to "serious proposals" from three primary parties seeking to take the company over.

Each of the competitors has intriguing plans for their bids, though specific information is hard to come by. At least one is reportedly interested more in the intellectual property and assets alone, while one other bidder expressed an interest in operating the intact company and "greatly" expanding its operations, presumably keeping it where it now operates in Bend, OR. Depending on the ultimate resolution to this matter, the Central Oregon employment picture stands poised to get a shot in the arm... or take a big hit, if the company is disassembled or moved.

The biggest news in the story (so far), is the report that industry titan Cessna Aircraft is a part of the bidding process, through its corporate parent, Textron. Textron/Cessna's plans for Columbia remain murky and company spokespersons have refused to "comment on speculation... as a matter of company policy." Industry insiders consider the Textron/Cessna involvement to be the most interesting aspect of the current scenario. One aero-insider noted (on background) that, " would seem unlikely that Textron would keep Columbia in Oregon, and if Cessna is the focal point of this action, then their labor agreements may even force them to bring everything back to Kansas. Still, the biggest question is whether Textron would be interested in Columbia as a stand-alone company, as a part of Cessna itself, or as an asset acquisition that may (ultimately) result in the cessation of production in its current form. Regardless, the Textron/Cessna interest in this company has the potential to change the industry, dramatically."

ANN is awaiting word from a number of parties close to this story as to the final decisions of the Columbia Board... decisions which could come as early as today, or (as is the custom in aviation these days) to drag on intermittably. One Columbia insider, though, predicts "an answer by NBAA (ANN Note: next week's NBAA 2007 Convention in Atlanta, GA), probably, but certainly by AOPA (ANN Note: the AOPA Expo this October 4th-6th)."

ANN will keep you updated as developments occur.



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