Paris: Private equity company PAI Partners announced on Thursday it is selling airport ground handling and cargo company Swissport International to China's HNA Group for 2.7 billion Swiss francs (USD 2.8 billion).
Swissport, the global leader in airport ground handling and cargo services, employes around 60,000 people in 48 countries, generates annual consolidated operating revenues of around three billion Swiss francs from a client roster of nearly 700 companies.
The deal is expected to be finalised by the end of the year, following approval by competition authorities and the Chinese government.
Paris-based PAI bought Swissport in 2011 for 1.2 billion Swiss francs.
Under PAI's ownership, Swissport considerably extended the geographical range and volume of its activity through both internal growth and outside acquisitions that included ground handling companies Flightcare, IAS and Servisair.
Swissport Chairman Dr Thomas Staehelin said the company was "pleased to become a part of HNA group," promising continued growth and stronger service.
Swissport, based near Zurich, now serves about 224 million passengers annually and handles 4.1 million tonnes of cargo.
The sale of Swissport is the third major divestment by PAI, one of Europe's larger private equity firms.
"The acquisition by HNA of Swissport confirms the strategic value of the company as being the worldwide leader and consolidation platform in the still fragmented airport services market," said Ricardo de Serdio, a PAI partner.
"The acquisition by HNA will enable the company to grow in the underpenetrated Asian markets and in China in particular thanks to HNA's strong roots in the region."
Based in Haikou, southern China, HNA posted 2014 sales of USD 25 billion, and in recent years has expanded from a regional logistics company to an international player in aviation services and financing, airport management and tourism.
"HNA is committed to Swissport's future success in the global aviation market", the firm's President Adam Tan said in a statement.
He described Swissport's management team as "world class" and pledged to support it.
Swissport has changed hands several times over the last decade and a half, including during the crisis that hit its former parent company, Swissair.
In a 2002 deal, the British venture capital firm Candover bought Swissport for 580 million francs, plying it from Swissair which had overextended itself following a series of aggressive acquisitions.
Swissport was then in 2010 sold to the Spanish firm Ferrovial, having grown steadily through each acquisition.