The assets of insolvent iconic planemaker Pacific Aerospace have been sold to two North Island business people with a strong interest in aviation.
Neil Young and Dee Bond, owners of the Mercer airfield and Mercer businesses, the Tuakau Hotel, and other properties confirmed to the Herald they were the purchasers of the Hamilton-based light aircraft designer and manufacturer which was put into liquidation in March.
Young said they wanted to "wait until the dust settles" to discuss the operation's future.
Pacific Aerospace employed 93 people, many highly skilled veterans of the aircraft exporter when it was put into liquidation.
Young said he was reluctant to "create any false promises" but could see no reason the company shouldn't be rebuilt.
Bond is an accountant and a veteran pilot, the only female captain in the world of an amphibious Catalina aircraft.
Young, also a pilot, said a chief executive had been appointed but declined to name them.
Liquidators KhovJones said the sale meant the business would remain in New Zealand with local staff to be offered employment.
Stephen Khov declined to say if liquidators had received a higher offer than that of Bond and Young.
Pacific Aerospace, whose origins date back to 1939 at its site beside Hamilton airport, owed creditors at least $42 million, according to the liquidators' recent first report.
Secured creditors were owed $1.67 million and unsecured creditors $41.2m. Among unsecured creditors, $35m was owed to related parties, and $5.6m to third parties.
The liquidators hoped the sale would allow for distribution to staff for their preferential claim. They were uncertain at this stage whether there would be residual funds to enable a distribution to unsecured creditors.
The amount owing to total preferential creditors, including staff, had yet to be determined, and the value of the company's total assets had yet to be disclosed, the first report said.
Preferential claims from employees for unpaid wages and holiday pay to February 10 were assessed to total $814,684, but assessments were continuing of staff entitlements to March 8 and redundancy claims.
On March 8 when liquidators were appointed, funds available to the company were $37,641.
The company was 50 per cent owned by Chinese company BAIC International (Hong Kong), a subsidiary of China state-owned giant Beijing Automotive, and 50 per cent by New Zealand shareholders of Pacific Aerospace Group.
Liquidation was sought by a US supplier creditor.
The company owed its landlord Waikato Regional Airport lease arrears of $222,239.
At least 400 aircraft produced by the company are operating globally, according to Herald sources, and its aircraft form the backbone of New Zealand's agricultural aviation fleet.
As the report notes, the company is currently the only supplier of certified replacement parts for any of its aircraft.
The liquidators had engaged with customers, mainly based overseas, that either had unfinished aircraft builds or had paid deposits for builds yet to start, the report said. A review of work in progress and finished inventory had been undertaken. The report shows prepaid customers are owed $413,089.
Last month, New Zealand operators of Pacific Aerospace-made aircraft expressed concern they would be grounded because they could not access parts and maintenance. The CAA confirmed to the Herald those concerns aren't limited to rural topdressing and spraying operators. Skydiving operations that had bought the company's popular XSTOL P-750 aircraft might also feel the effects as the liquidation continues, the authority said.
At the interim liquidation stage, KhovJones had sought funding from both shareholder groups.
Both declined, the first report said.
Subsequently in full liquidation, a proposal was discussed to recapitalise the business and terminate the liquidation.
"Unfortunately, no satisfactory progress has been made in this regard at the time of this report."
There had been "reasonable" recovery from local debtors.