(Bloomberg) -- AviLease, a jet lessor owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is in advanced talks to acquire an aviation finance business from Standard Chartered Plc, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Riyadh-based AviLease and London-listed Standard Chartered are putting the final touches on a deal that could be valued at at least €3.5 billion ($3.7 billion), according to the people.
Standard Chartered shares rose as much as 1.5% in early Tuesday trading. They were up 0.8% at 8:56 a.m. in the UK capital, giving the lender a market value of £18.7 billion ($23.2 billion).
Dublin-based Standard Chartered Aviation Finance owns and manages more than 120 aircraft and offers services including jet fuel hedging, debt financing and remarketing of unneeded planes. Standard Chartered is selling the asset as part of plans to cut costs and boost shareholder returns.
AviLease is among a number of companies the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has bankrolled as it pushes deeper into sectors from sports to tourism through a series of high-profile acquisitions. Last year, PIF set up Savvy Gaming Group to make a mark in the video-game industry and used it to spend billions buying esports tournament organizer ESL, casual game publisher Scopely Inc. and a stake in Nordic developer Embracer Group AB.
A deal would quickly help AviLease boost its presence in key leasing markets in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Established last year as part of Saudi Arabia’s push to diversify its economy, AviLease is led by Ted O’Byrne, who previously oversaw Carlyle Group Inc.’s aviation arm. In recent days, AviLease said it acquired 13 aircraft from lessor Avolon Holdings, taking its portfolio to 45 planes.
Discussions are ongoing and may still falter, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Spokespeople for Standard Chartered and PIF declined to comment, while a representative for AviLease couldn’t immediately be reached.
Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman is in the midst of an initiative to make Saudi Arabia less dependent on oil under his Vision 2030 initiative. PIF is setting up startup carrier Riyadh Air to predominantly serve the kingdom’s capital, which has ambitions to become a global business hub. It’s also hoping to compete with regional powerhouses Emirates and Qatar Airways for transfer traffic.
--With assistance from Harry Wilson, Jan-Henrik Förster and Archana Narayanan.
(Updates with latest share movement, background on Saudi economic transformation from third paragraph.)
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