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Sunday 18 August 2019

Ireland's status as a key aviation hub links it to ups and downs of industry

Egyptian military personnel find the tail of the Metrojet passenger plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai desert
Egyptian military personnel find the tail of the Metrojet passenger plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai desert
The Metrojet's Airbus A321 that crashed in Egypt takes off from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport (picture taken October 20, 2015)
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Last month, the State-owned China Construction Bank opened the Dublin arm of its aircraft leasing business. It is a further endorsement of Ireland's success as the global hub for the sector.

Almost all of the world's top aircraft leasing companies have bases in Ireland. More than 30 aircraft leasing firms have operations here.

There are more than 21,000 commercial jet aircraft in use around the world, and about half of those are planes that are leased by airlines. And of those leased jets, half are managed from Ireland.

And that's why when tragedy strikes, thankfully infrequently, it can emerge that an aircraft involved in an incident was registered here, or owned by a company with a major base in Ireland.

That happened last week, with the tragic Metrojet Airbus that crashed en route from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheik resort to St Petersburg. The aircraft was registered in Ireland and owned by a company called Wilmington Trust, which is a subsidiary of US-based M&T Bank.

Much of the growth in the aircraft leasing sector in coming years will be driven by demand from China and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

One of the beneficiaries has been Clare native Domhnal Slattery. He made millions of euro in the last decade selling an aircraft leasing business to Royal Bank of Scotland.

Another Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm he co-founded, Avolon, is being sold to Chinese firm Bohai Leasing.

The success of the leasing business in Ireland has its roots in Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA), the leasing firm that was established by the late Tony Ryan, a co-founder of Ryanair.

Among those who worked at GPA was Mr Slattery.

Others in the sector also got their start there, including Peter Barrett, who now heads up SMBC Aviation in Dublin.

The Irish Stock Exchange has also played its role. In 2014, it launched a dedicated exchange for debt and other financial instruments linked to the aviation industry.

Last month, it was reported that aircraft leasing firms in Ireland paid a total of just €23m in corporation taxes last year and only €123m over the past five years. That's despite the top five companies in the sector in Ireland generating combined pre-tax profits of €573m in 2014.

But the industry employs 1,000 people directly and another 2,000 indirectly, with taxes on the payrolls.

You can gripe if you want about the corporation tax, but the sector has become a global calling card for Ireland.

Irish Independent

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