U.S. Markets open in 40 mins

KKR to buy stake in Malaysia's Weststar Aviation Services

By Yantoultra Ngui and Stephen Aldred

KUALA LUMPUR/HONG KONG, Oct 9 (Reuters) - KKR & Co will buy a minority stake in Weststar Aviation Services in a deal that gives the U.S. private equity firm its first asset in Malaysia and a piece of a company that arranges helicopter charter flights for the region's oil and gas sector.

KKR and Weststar said in a joint statement that the two companies will take part in a signing ceremony on Thursday, though it did not disclose the price of the deal. People familiar with the matter said KKR will pay around 650 million ringgit ($203.41 million).

KKR and Weststar declined to comment on the size of the transaction.

The deal would be KKR's fourth Asia-Pacific investment announced in the last three weeks, in which the firm put more than $1 billion of equity to use, one of the people familiar with the matter said. The firm recently raised a $6 billion Asia fund, the region's largest ever such fund.

The money spent on KKR's recent flurry of Asia deals comes from several funds including the new Asia fund, the person said.

Weststar, controlled by politically connected tycoon Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, is the largest provider of helicopter services to oil and gas companies in Southeast Asia, with a fleet of more than 40 helicopters.

A separate person familiar with the matter said Weststar is in the early stages of planning an initial public offering, expected to take place early next year.

Weststar's customers include Exxon Mobil Corp and Malaysian state oil group Petronas. In 2011, Weststar won a 4.2 billion ringgit contract from Petronas.

Weststar is also the fourth-largest operator of the AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters, which can carry up to 15 passengers and travel at high speeds, according to its website.

New York-based KKR, founded in 1976 by cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts, has announced seven deals in Asia so far this year, investing in companies in such countries as Vietnam, India, China and Japan.