Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Libra Group, a closely held company with interests in shipping, aviation, hotels, and energy, is expanding into helicopter leasing with a commitment to spend as much as $400 million on AgustaWestland craft.
The LCI unit of Libra has signed an agreement to buy a fleet of AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters for use in oil and gas exploration, rescues and medical transport, said George Logothetis, chief executive officer of New York-based Libra. The contract includes a firm order for 19 helicopters, plus 15 options, with deliveries spread over five years. Agusta Westland is a unit of Rome-based Finmeccanica SpA.
Libra was formed in 2003 as an international shipping business. From 2004 to 2006 it sold 67 vessels to fund diversification. Libra sees synergies between its shipping business and helicopters, as about eight of its ships are used to serve oil rigs and deep-water offshore supply, said Logothetis, who is also chairman.
“We have a leasing business on the fixed-wing side already and we want to grow, diversify,” Logothetis said in a telephone interview. “It’s a high-demand area with strong growth -- if you think of oil and gas, mining, even offshore wind turbines, all these facilities are being built, so it’s a good area for our leasing vision.”
The helicopters will be will be included in the Lease Corp. International leasing unit, or LCI, in operation since 2004.
LCI, which in November 2007 sold a fleet of 20 aircraft for $1 billion, began buying planes again in 2009. Its fleet of Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. planes are on lease to airlines, including Singapore Airlines Ltd., Air France-KLM and Asiana Airlines Inc.
LCI was also an early customer for the Bombardier Inc. CSeries and has placed an order for 20 aircraft valued at $1.4 billion, with options for another 20.
Libra, with 30 businesses in 20 offices, is run by four Logothesis brothers: George, 37, working from New York; Constantine, vice chairman, in London; Nicholas, a board member who is also co-founder of the Concordia Summit; and Leon, who runs the company’s Los-Angeles-based film company, the former Shankly Productions, now Principal Media.
“We’re a Greek family business,” George Logothesis said.
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