Erickson Air-Crane Inc. announces stock offering

CENTRAL POINT — Heavy-lift helicopter manufacturer and operator Erickson Air-Crane Inc.'s five-year strategic plan took flight Wednesday as the company announced plans to sell an estimated $75 million of stock in an initial public offering.

"This is absolutely a big day for us and a turning point for our future," said Chief Executive Officer Udo Rieder, after meeting with employees at the company's Willow Springs Road plant. "It launches our ability to fully leverage everything we have in the company and it's very exciting. We have great roots from our start as a logging company, and this will help our transformation into a real aerospace company."

Erickson has operated its manufacturing facility in Central Point since the 1970s. It was acquired for $89.7 million in 2007 and its headquarters were moved to Portland last year so it could market itself to its global clientele. About half of the company's 720-person global work force remains in Central Point. It employs about 100 pilots and maintains a year-round international presence with subsidiaries in Canada, Italy and Malaysia, as well as seasonal operations in Australia and Greece.

Proceeds from the sale will allow Erickson to produce more helicopters at its 88,548-square-foot factory located on 8 acres just off Interstate 5 as well as expand its component manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul operations. According to the filing, Erickson's facilities can support manufacture of up to four aircraft per year.

With additional work anticipated, the company likely will shift some of its activity to space it has nearby in Whetstone Industrial Park in White City.

The company says it will apply to have its stock traded on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol EAC. It will begin marketing its offer to institutional buyers in about two months. Rieder said the company intends to grant stock awards concurrent with the initial public offering to its U.S.-based employees based on tenure.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Erickson said it had revenue of $149.6 million in 2009, up 5.4 percent from a year earlier.

Its profit of $12.1 million grew 19 percent from 2008. During 2009, Erickson's aerial services produced $113.6 million in revenue, while it brought in $36 million from manufacturing and maintenance.

Erickson said it derived about two-thirds of its revenues from its major customers in 2009 ­— the U.S. Forest Service, Hellenic Fire Brigade, Australia Fire Service, Los Angeles city and county fire departments, Italian Ministry of Civil Protection and Samling Global.

Erickson said it is vulnerable to foreign currency fluctuations, with more than half its revenues transacted in a currency other than U.S. dollars. The company said it had a contract backlog of $184.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2009.

In the filing, Erickson divulged it is involved in a series of legal battles: A $9.8 million IRS claim involving the reallocation of foreign tax credits in 2005 and 2006; a June 2009 Sherman Antitrust Act and Clayton Act suit by Evergreen Helicopters Inc.; a case in Italian court related to a fatal crash in July 2005 in which a $533,000 settlement is pending; a November 2008 claim in which an Italian tomato grower alleges $3.6 million in damages when Erickson used water from its reservoir while fighting a fire; and a claim by Erickson against the U.S. Forest Service after the government pulled out of three contracts it awarded in June 2008.

Reach Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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