Ireland: Global Leader in Leasing Aircraft

Dublin Ireland

It’s not the luck of the Irish that makes Ireland the godfather of global commercial aviation leasing and finance. No. It was Tony Ryan, the Irish gentleman who put the Ryan in Ryanair.

According to the Irish Independent, there are 20,000 commercial jets in the air at any moment and 8,000 of them are leased. Half of those leased jets are managed from Ireland.

Born in Tipperary, Ryan was working for Aer Lingus when he got the idea to lease some of the aircraft to other carriers in the slow-traffic months of winter. In 1975, he formed his own aircraft leasing company named Guinness Peat Aviation, which pretty much collapsed in the downward spiral of the 1992 economy. Ryan sold it for parts in 2000 and he died in 2007. But his business model was cast.

Tony Ryan pretty much invented the game of aircraft leasing and made Ireland the Number One player. Nine of the world’s 10 largest aircraft leasing companies are located there, according to theIndependent. They also report Dublin is the “world leader in the aviation finance industry.”

Recent news out of that Irish aviation world is all about big-money mergers and IPOs akin to those dotcoms that spit out billionaires, at least on paper.

Some of today’s players are Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm Ansett Worldwide Aviation Services (AWAS), which some financial experts value as high as $4 billion. They own 280 aircraft. A private equity firm owns the majority of AWAS and they’re exploring market options (selling, splitting in two, or an IPO), reports the Independent.

But the leasing game gets much bigger than AWAS.

Last month a major U.S. player in aircraft leasing, International Lease Finance Corporation, was purchased by AerCap, which morphed out of Ryan’s original startup and is now the world’s second-biggest aircraft-leasing company with more than 1,300 aircraft.

AerCap’s corporate headquarters are in the Netherlands, but they operate their fleet out of Ireland where there is a history of expertise and low corporate tax.

GE Capital Aviation Services, with headquarters in Shannon, Ireland, and Stamford, Conn., is the world’s largest lessor by fleet size with more than 1,700 aircraft, most of them powered by GE engines.

So where does all this fit into the grand scheme of aviation? As the Independent noted, most low-cost airlines wouldn’t exist if they had to purchase the aircraft they fly. And there is massive growth going on in the industry, especially in the Asian-Pacific region where it is expected that $2-trillion worth of commercial aircraft are needed in the next 20 years.

This is how the Independent summed up aviation leasing: “For the moment, the industry is flying at cruising speed and canny investors want to be along for the ride, hoping for a share of the spoils.

The Tarmac’s View: The wheel of the world is not fixed. You all know the potential potholes on the tarmac – a global economic downturn, sky-high fuel prices, or another 9/11 happening somewhere in the world. But for now, even with the years’ long backlog of orders at Airbus and Boeing, the aviation industry is on solid ground, maybe like never before.

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • diburning at 6:19pm June 30, 2014

    I’m not surprised. Most of Alitalia’s fleet is registered in Ireland, and some of AeroMexico’s planes are registered there as well.

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