Tuesday 6 December 2016

Why is Ireland a hub for the global aircraft leasing sector?

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

Ireland's status as a leading world centre for aircraft leasing is perhaps more a product of business history than our favourable corporate tax treatment. Stock photo: PA Wire
Ireland's status as a leading world centre for aircraft leasing is perhaps more a product of business history than our favourable corporate tax treatment. Stock photo: PA Wire

Ireland's status as a leading world centre for aircraft leasing is perhaps more a product of business history than our favourable corporate tax treatment.

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Patrick Blaney is a decades-long veteran of the industry. He was successor to Tony Ryan as boss of Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) and is now the chairman of the aircraft-leasing, finance and law programme at University College Dublin. He says it all goes back to the history of Aer Lingus.

"In essence, this industry grew out of a need. Aer Lingus in the early 1970s found itself with two 747s that it just bought - and immediately after the Troubles they had no passengers from America to fill them," he says.

"Tony Ryan was dispatched by his then employer to find a home for these two planes and he found an airline in Thailand called Air Siam (now Thai International), which needed not just the planes but a flight crew and cabin staff.

"So he very neatly organised for two aeroplanes that Aer Lingus had bought but didn't need, they had trained crews and all the rest to fly, and he shipped the whole lot out to Thailand and they became effectively part of Thai International.

"And then Tony realised there was a business here. He got $20,000 from Aer Lingus to start up an aircraft-leasing business. Nearly everybody in this room, in some shape or form, cut their teeth in either GE, which always had an aircraft-leasing business, or GPA."

A heavily indebted GPA imploded in the early 90s after a failed IPO attempt. A subsidiary of General Electric - GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) - swooped in, with Blaney leading GPA through the restructuring. Later, Aercap would emerge from GPA's ashes.

Norm Liu, GECAS's chairman, picks up the story.

"After the GPA IPO didn't work out, we sort of took over the organisation, took over some locked assets, managed the rest of the fleet and then we grew our base. We're sort of all from the gene pool," he says.

Peter Barrett, the chief executive of SMBC Aviation Capital, says there's a "critical mass" that makes Ireland attractive.

"There are good fiscal reasons to do it, but there are lots of places like that - we're not the only people with fiscal advantages.

"One of the things I think is very important is things like KPMG and their experience. When we look at leasing to an airline, there's a pretty good chance that an aeroplane has been leased to that country before from Ireland.

"So you're not inventing the wheel. You call up one of the firms around town and they will have walked that journey before."

Sunday Indo Business

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