By Anjuli Davies and Sophie Sassard
LONDON (Reuters) - The owners of helicopter transport services firm Avincis have invited banks to pitch for an initial public offering (IPO) that could value the firm at up to 2 billion pounds, three sources familiar with the situation said.
Avincis is co-owned by buyout firms KKR and Italy's Investindustrial. They are studying an IPO as a route to exiting their investment in Avincis after joint venture talks with engineering services group Babcock International
"The first pitches took place last week and all the banks have not yet presented their ideas," said one of the sources, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.
A listing is likely to take place about four months from now, the person said.
Many private equity firms are looking to take advantage of buoyant equity markets, with investors' appetite for European stocks returning as the financial crisis gradually fades.
Babcock could, however, still try to pre-empt an IPO of Avincis with a bid, alongside other sector peers which have previously shown interest in the firm, two of the sources said.
KKR, Investindustrial and Avincis were not immediately available for comment.
A spokesman for Babcock said there had been no update to the stated position as of November 24 last year when the two companies confirmed being in early-stage exclusive talks.
London-headquartered Avincis runs a fleet of 356 aircraft, of which 196 are owned by the company, and operates in 10 countries. It has about 3,000 employees.
It is involved in missions such as pulling survivors from the ocean in air-sea rescues and fighting wildfires from the air. The firm also runs a 24-hour air ambulance service.
One of its four brands, Bond, has been hit with a spate of accidents in recent years, the latest of which forced it to temporarily suspend its global fleet of 38 Airbus-made
Last November, a Bond Aviation EC135 helicopter leased to the police fell from the sky on to a pub in Scotland, killing ten people, while in May 2012 the crew of a Bond-operated Super Puma EC225 helicopter ditched the aircraft in the North Sea after a gear box failure.
In 2009, all 14 passengers and two crew died after a Bond-operated Super Puma crashed off Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland on its way back from BP's
(Additional reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Mark Potter and Pravin Char)