KUALA LUMPUR: The Weststar Group is considering an initial public offering (IPO) of its helicopter services unit in Kuala Lumpur to raise at least US$300 million, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The conglomerate, controlled by Malaysian businessman Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, has held initial talks with advisers on the listing of Weststar Aviation Services Sdn Bhd, which could happen as soon as next year, said the sources, who asked not to be identified as the process is private.

Weststar Group is also looking to sell a stake of as much as 20% in the helicopter unit in a funding round before the IPO, seeking a valuation of nearly US$2 billion including debt, they said.

Deliberations are ongoing and there is no certainty that Weststar Group will proceed with the planned stake sale and listing, they added. A representative from Weststar Group declined to comment.

Weststar Aviation, which is backed by buyout firm KKR & Co, is one of Southeast Asia’s biggest helicopter operators.

The company owns 44 helicopters, of which 35 are AW139, making it the second-biggest global operator of such aircraft in the world, according to the state-owned Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corp website.

Its clients include Petronas Carigali, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Mubadala Petroleum LLC. The company has operations in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Mauritania.

Weststar Group, founded in 2003, runs a wide range of businesses including aviation, automobiles, property and insurance, according to its website.

The conglomerate had attempted to list the helicopter unit before, according to local media reports. In 2017, Syed Azman told The Edge that it’s gauging the market for a listing of the aviation business.