Era Aviation may be sold by parent company

Rowan Companies has already received several proposals to buy Era

Posted: Thursday, September 02, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Era Aviation's parent company is deciding whether to sell the air carrier, Rowan Companies Inc. officials said.

Rowan's board of directors wants to evaluate the importance of Era to the Texas-based company's business.

"The board has asked the company to take a look at Era Aviation and check the market as to what kind of value Era has to the company," said Bob Croyle, Rowan's vice chair and chief administrative officer. "Then the board will determine if Era is a core business to us or if we want to sell it."

The evaluation began in April, said Era President Chuck Johnson. Croyle said the process should be completed within the next few months.

"It's not a fun time for Era employees to have this indecision," he said. "We want to reach a decision on the matter fairly quickly."

Rowan has received several proposals to buy Era, both Croyle and Johnson said.

Rowan, based in Houston, has three areas of operation: oil and gas well drilling; manufacturing and sale of heavy equipment and products; and fixed-wing and helicopter services.

Era's airline services are an important part of Alaska's transportation, especially in rural communities. Era has hubs in Anchorage and Bethel, and flies to 24 locations in Alaska. It also offers charter and contract flight services.

Era helicopters run flightseeing tours in Southeast Alaska. The company also operates out of Louisiana and Nevada, primarily for the oil and gas industry.

As of March, Era owned 85 helicopters and 16 fixed-wing aircraft, according to financial statements. The company has 950 employees, most of whom are in Alaska.

In the first six months of the year, Era reported a loss of nearly $14.4 million in operations, according to Rowan's second-quarter financial statements. That compares to a loss of $5.1 million during the same period last year.

Rowan reported an operating loss of $964,000 through June 30, 2004. The corporation lost $17.1 million for the first six months of 2003.

Carl F. Brady founded Era in 1948, establishing what is now the world's oldest helicopter company. In 1967, Rowan bought Era's holdings.

While he doesn't know what's going to happen to Era, Johnson said he doesn't believe that Era will ever leave Alaska.

"I'm sure we'll still be around - I'm as confident as I can be about that," he said. "We really aren't a core business to Rowan. We're the only one of their companies that's not core to offshore drilling. But we're a viable company."

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