Mail Tribune

Mail Tribune

Erickson Air-Crane said it has signed a letter of intent to purchase a Brazilian oil-and-gas aerial-services company that would expand its fleet by more than 75 percent, adding 14 helicopters to its present group of 18 Sikorsky S-64s.

Erickson Air-Crane, which manufactures, maintains and overhauls its fleet at its Willow Springs Road complex in Central Point, said Tuesday it plans to acquire the air logistics unit of HRT Participaes em Petroleo S.A., one of the largest oil and natural gas independent explorers and producers in Brazil. The deal, expected to close in the second half of 2013, would make Erickson a major player in South American heavy-lift helicopter operations.

The letter of intent is nonbinding and requires Erickson to provide operational services to HRT in the Amazon River Basin, including both cargo and passenger transport, through a three-year, renewable contract.

"We are very pleased to have identified what we believe is a strong future partner," Udo Rieder, chief executive officer of Erickson Air-Crane, said in a statement. "We're confident that this acquisition can be an excellent path to diversification and growth. Brazil is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing industrial markets in the world, and we are uniquely suited to provide our expertise and leverage the full capabilities of this fleet and our investment."

Erickson, which employs about 500 people locally, has firefighting and logging contracts in southeast Asia, Korea, Australia, Italy, Greece and in North America.

HRT Participaes em Petroleo, headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, has about 800 employees, but is a relative newcomer, opening in 2009.

It also is involved in energy exploration in Bacia do Solimões in Brazil and in Namibia in Africa.

Erickson is scheduled to announce its third-quarter financial results this afternoon. The helicopter company's shares gained 3 cents to $7.49 in light trading on Tuesday.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email