Aircraft lessors warn we can't be 'complacent' despite being No1
Ireland needs to safeguard the lead established by the aviation finance sector here, or risk losing out to new hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore, a new industry body has warned.
The aircraft leasing industry supports 5,000 jobs in Ireland, directly and indirectly, and contributes more than €550m annually to the local economy, according to Aircraft Leasing Ireland (ALI), an Ibec-affiliated industry body launched last night at an event in Dublin.
The new body is chaired by David Swan, an executive with SMBC Aviation Capital in Dublin.
Aircraft leasing developed as an industry in Ireland 40 years ago, pioneered by the late Tony Ryan at Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) in Shannon.
More than 50 leasing companies are now based here - split between Dublin and Shannon - that between then own and manage 60pc of the world's leased aircraft.
"We're number one but we can't be complacent," Mr Swan said.
China's national leadership has identified aircraft leasing as a strategically important industry, and is keen to develop the sector further in Hong Kong, he said.
However, he insisted establishing ALI is not a response to a specific threat.
Ireland has strengths including experienced people and legal and financial infrastructure that may be hard to replicate, he said.
The new industry body has identified four key priority areas, he said. They are:
Ensuring the sector has a coordinated voice, including when it engages with Government.
Supporting educational programmes that can help underpin the industry's skills base, ranging from specialist financial and legal courses to engineering and aerospace apprenticeships linked to the leasing industry's aircraft maintenance requirements
Extending Ireland's 74 existing double taxation treaties, which make cross-border leasing viable, to countries such as Argentina, Indonesia, and Japan.
Personal taxes and housing, seen as challenges to competitiveness when it comes to staff recruitment and retention.
The new group's membership includes all of the major Irish-based aircraft leasing companies.
It also includes professional services firms such as KPMG and PwC, law firms including McCann FitzGerald that have developed specialisms in the area, and key individuals such as former GPA chief Patrick Blaney, who now heads University College Dublin's aircraft leasing, finance and law programme.
ALI was formally launched by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.
"Ireland is a global leader in the aviation financing industry due in part to our extensive network of double taxation treaties, our specialist skilled staff and our focused support for the sector through, for example, the 2018 Action Plan for Ireland's IFS2020 Strategy, where aviation finance has been identified as one of the priority areas," the minister said.
The new group is being established within employers' group Ibec, where some of the main players are already members.
At its launch, ALI has 17 members, including four of the world's largest aircraft lessors, Aercap, Avolon, GECAS and SMBC Aviation Capital.
Last night's launch was attended by industry leaders, senior officials and members of the international diplomatic corps, reflecting the reach of the sector.