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Cessna wins bid for Columbia $ 26.4 million deal could close in early December
Cessna wins bid for Columbia $ 26.4 million deal could close in early December

Cessna Aircraft Co. came out the winner Tuesday in an auction to buy the assets of troubled Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. A bankruptcy court judge in Portland, Ore., is expected to sign the final sale order today. Cessna said it will pay $ 26.4 million -- $ 15.9 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities -- for the assets of the Bend, Ore., company. The deal is expected to close by Dec. 4.

Columbia, which makes two models of high-performance single-engine piston airplanes, filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

"The Columbia models are a good fit with our existing product line," Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton said in a statement.

Columbia employs about 400 people. Its 2006 revenue totaled $ 90 million. Cessna plans to make significant investments in the Bend facility, its operations and in its employees, the company said. After the sale closes, the Bend operation will take on the Cessna name, the company said. Cessna also intends to rename Columbia´s two models of aircraft to the Cessna 350 and the Cessna 400. Columbia would bring Cessna several advantages, experts have said.

For one, it gives Cessna the technology and design for high-performance aircraft along with a certified production system for building composite airplanes. Columbia´s aircraft fits in the niche above Cessna´s 172 and 182 single-engine piston planes and its planned family of next-generation piston planes, the company said.

Columbia will benefit from Cessna´s ownership through its worldwide sales and distribution system, support network and its financial stability, experts say. And Cessna also has the funds to invest in new product development.

Cessna will bring its network of authorized dealers and service centers to integrate the sales and support of the Columbia aircraft. Its Cessna parts distribution network will handle Columbia parts for owners.

Columbia has had a number of fits and starts, from unevenness in funding to program delays. The company reorganized management in March and temporarily laid off workers. The company, known as Lancair until 2005, opened its current facility in 1999. It produced its first airplane in 2000. In 2002, Columbia encountered major financial difficulties when a major investor pulled its support, and it was forced to lay off 277 workers. The Malaysian Ministry of Finance acquired majority interest in the company at that time. Composite materials producer Park Electrochemical also bid on Columbia but dropped out of the bidding process Tuesday.

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