(Adds detail, background)
By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI, May 17 (Reuters) - Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), one of the world’s largest aircraft lessors, is in talks to buy 400 jetliners from Airbus and Boeing and is prepared to expand its fleet through acquisition if talks fall through, its CEO told Reuters.
The move comes months after a leading U.S. airline investor orchestrated a record deal last November for a group of airlines to buy more than 400 planes from Airbus as economists project strong growth for air travel.
Government-controlled DAE is interested in buying single-aisle Airbus A320neo-family and Boeing 737 MAX planes after its acquisition last year of Dublin-based lessor AWAS, DAE Chief Executive Firoz Tarapore said on Thursday.
Any deal would not necessarily be evenly split between the two planemakers, Tarapore said, adding that DAE was “nowhere near where we thought we would be” in finalising an order.
“We are not happy with the price,” he said in an interview at DAE’s offices in Dubai’s financial district.
An order for 400 single-aisle jets would be worth more than $40 billion at list prices, though discounts are common for large orders.
Boeing declined to comment and Airbus did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
A huge deal would give DAE a long-term pipeline of directly ordered aircraft on par with its rivals, though it may have to wait several years for deliveries to start because manufactures are heavily sold out.
Tarapore told Reuters last June that DAE was considering a “large order” for more than 23 new aircraft, with deliveries to start from 2019.
DAE would look at other options to acquire new aircraft if it does not reach an agreement with Airbus or Boeing, which Tarapore said could include acquiring a rival to gain access to its order book for aircraft.
DAE jetted into the top tier of aircraft lessors last year when it acquired Dublin-based AWAS, the industry’s tenth-biggest firm at the time. The acquisition tripled DAE’s portfolio to about 400 owned and managed aircraft worth over $14 billion.
DAE is “operating very smoothly”, Tarapore said, adding that the integration of AWAS was completed in February.
In the meantime, DAE is considering issuing a $500 million sukuk this year or in 2019 and a conventional dollar bond in the fourth quarter of this year, Tarapore said.
The bond issues are not dependent on finalising an aircraft order, he added.
DAE intends to be a repeat, benchmark issuer in the U.S. debt market, he told Reuters in October 2017. A benchmark issue conventionally means upwards of $500 million.
DAE raised $2.3 billion in the United States through a senior bond issue in 2017 to finance the AWAS deal. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Mark Potter, Tim Hepher and David Goodman)