“China Inc” has agreed to buy 80% of mega-lessor International Lease Finance Corp and optioned another 10%, with major implications for global aviation.
ILFC parent AIG, which is still largely owned by the US government after the 2008 bailout following the global financial meltdown, retains the balance.
The 80% sale has a price of $4.8bn, which is $2.5bn less than book value, implying a big write down will be forthcoming. This follows billions of dollars in previous write-downs and has ominous implications for other lessors who generally haven’t written down aircraft values. Any sales would almost certainly trigger write downs, turning balance sheets upside down for lessors.
While AIG (and the US government) get billions of dollars, the Chinese become an instant huge player on the international stage. The Bank of China previously purchased what is now BOC Aviation, based in Singapore, but ILFC dwarfs BOCA. If ICBC later comes into the ILFC deal, which it may, ICBC’s fledging leasing business stands to gain valuable expertise.
We expect business as usual for the near term. But this is yet another step in China’s path to a global superpower in aerospace.