Private equity company PAI Partners announced Thursday it is selling airport ground handling and cargo company Swissport International to China's HNA Group for 2.7 billion Swiss francs ($2.8 billion, 2.54 billion euros).
Swissport, the global leader in airport ground handling and cargo services, employes around 60,000 people in 48 countries, generates annual consolidated operating revenues of around three billion Swiss francs from a client roster of nearly 700 companies.
The deal is expected to be finalised by the end of the year, following approval by competition authorities and the Chinese government.
PAI bought Swissport in 2011 for 1.2 billion Swiss francs.
Under PAI's ownership, Swissport considerably extended the geographical range and volume of its activity through both internal growth and outside acquisitions that included ground handling companies Flightcare, IAS and Servisair.
Swissport, based near Zurich, now serves about 224 million passengers annually and handles 4.1 million tonnes of cargo.
The sale of Swissport is the third major divestment by PAI, one of Europe's larger private equity firms.
"The acquisition by HNA of Swissport confirms the strategic value of the company as being the worldwide leader and consolidation platform in the still fragmented airport services market," said Ricardo de Serdio, a PAI partners.
"The acquisition by HNA will enable the company to grow in the underpenetrated Asian markets and in China in particular thanks to HNA's strong roots in the region."
Based in Haikou, southern China, HNA posted 2014 sales of $25 billion, and in recent years has expanded from a regional logistics company to an international player in aviation services and financing, airport management and tourism.