February 12, 2018 / 4:27 PM / 13 days ago

Fierce competition, cheap money pressure aircraft lease rates: StanChart

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Intense competition in the $261 billion global aircraft leasing sector triggered by an abundant supply of cheap money is putting pressure on lease rates, a senior executive at Standard Chartered Bank (STAN.L) said.

While airlines’ profitability and traffic growth remain strong, the leasing industry is having to balance this with tighter margins and falling residual values of planes as Chinese money floods the market.

“We’ve seen some reduction in lease rate factors but key for us as an industry and having experienced players, is to maintain your pricing discipline and buy the right assets,” Kieran Corr, global head of aviation finance at Standard Chartered, told Reuters in an interview.

Standard Chartered’s Dublin-based aviation leasing unit, Pembroke, is ranked as the world’s No. 17 lessor by portfolio value as per consultancy Flightglobal Ascend.

Standard Chartered, which ordered 10 Boeing Co (BA.N) 737-800 aircraft in 2016 worth $960 million at list prices, was studying the prospect of placing more orders of new technology jets, Corr said.

“We will look at doing a possible follow-on order, but we will focus on new technology aircraft,” he said, declining to provide further details.

New technology jets that are more fuel efficient than their predecessors include the 737 MAX and the Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A320neo narrow bodies and wide bodies such as the 787, A350 and A330neo.

    Pembroke had a portfolio of 136 planes with a total estimated value of $4.6 billion as of the last quarter of 2017, data from Flightglobal showed.

    A flood of low-cost Chinese capital has shaken up the global aircraft leasing market, with Chinese funding now accounting for 28 percent of the $261 billion deployed by leasing firms worldwide, up from 5 percent nine years ago, according to Flightglobal.

    Last week, the head of the world’s largest aircraft leasing firm, AerCap (AER.N), told Reuters that the industry could see a shakeout after years of fast growth as rising interest rates and competition put pressure on some of the newer entrants.

    Corr, an industry veteran of more than 25 years, said Standard Chartered’s global footprint and variety of clients was helping provide diversification to the leasing unit and an ability to structure large financing.

    “You have got to make sure you keep checking the values of aircraft and lease rates,” Corr said of lessors’ portfolios. “If you look at the used twin-aisle market, on A330 and 777, we have seen softening of values and lease rates. There’s no question about that.”

    Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Tim Hepher; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Susan Fenton

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