Whither Raytheon?

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Despite what was billed as a weekend-long series of negotiations designed to reach a final agreement, there was no official word late Tuesday on whether an investor group comprising Onex Corp. and Goldman Sachs would buy Raytheon Aircraft. Reports late last week indicated the two sides were near an agreement as part of their exclusive negotiations, which came after suitors Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management were put on hold by the aircraft manufacturer. The deal to buy Raytheon -- which reportedly would not include Raytheon's fractional operation, Flight Options, or its charter provider, Raytheon Airline Aviation Services -- has been valued as high as $3 billion and is generally thought to involve both Onex and Goldman Sachs acquiring identical shares equal to slightly less than 50 percent, with current Raytheon executives retaining the rest. Both Onex and Goldman Sachs have had very good years: The former last week announced it had bought a 12.5-percent stake in Qantas, Australia's flagship carrier, while the latter's employees are going to divvy up some $16 billion in end-of-year bonuses.

The proposed sale is generally thought to be a good deal for Raytheon Aircraft's parent company, as well as for its rank-and-file employees. The airframer's parent company seems more comfortable in its role as an aerospace and military contractor while Onex got uniformly good marks after it purchased a Wichita, Kan.-based Boeing unit in 2005. Goldman Sachs was also part of that acquisition. As Toronto's Globe and Mail reported last week, "Onex has made a name for itself for more than two decades as a company that identifies underperforming assets or sectors, buys low and works with management to unlock the value, often then selling for many times what it paid." What that may mean for Raytheon's venerable Beechcraft and Hawker lines is anyone's guess.