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Operating lessors: Chinese closing on the Big Two October 2018 Download PDF

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The “Big Two” lessors — GECAS and AerCap —  still dominate the operating lease market, according to Aviation Strategy’s annual survey of lessors with a portfolio of more than 100 owned or managed jet aircraft (see table).

However, as they have done for the last few years, the Big Two are sticking to a strategy of trimming their portfolios (each losing 50 aircraft over the last 12 months), and as a result the chasing pack — led by the Chinese-controlled operators -gets closer and closer each year.

The total fleet stands at 7,386 aircraft — 817 units higher than last year (see Aviation Strategy, September 2017), although 654 aircraft of that increase come from five new entries into our table, and 163 extra units come from lessors that were in the previous 2017 table.

Indeed, GECAS and AerCap’s joint share of the total 100+ lessor fleet has fallen to 31.8%, compared with 45.6% as of four years ago (see chart). The big risers in the table are Apollo Aviation Group (up by 65 aircraft year-on-year), and Air Lease Corporation (up 52).

Also notable is the entry of five “new” lessors into our table this year, having passed through the minimum 100 jet portfolio needed for inclusion. They are BoCom Leasing, Standard Chartered Aviation Finance, Goshawk Aviation, Castlelake Aviation and China Aircraft Leasing Company.

Three of these are controlled by Chinese interests, and when added to the four Chinese lessors already in our table (Avolon, BOC Aviation, ICBC Leasing and CDB Leasing), this means that Chinese lessors now account for 24.5% of the global leasing fleet in our table — compared with just 6.6% as of 2014 (see chart).

In terms of firm orders, the Big Two’s share of the outstanding lessor order table has fallen to 28.5% — some 9.2 percentage points down in just 12 months.

Total outstanding orders from lessors with 100+ aircraft is 2,483, compared with 1,914 a year ago, although 228 units of this increase comes from new entries in our table, and 341 comes from lessors who were also in the table as of 12 months ago.

The biggest net order additions came from two Chinese lessors — CDB Leasing, with 130 new orders added in the last 12 months, and Avolon, with 126 extra orders. And the addition of 22 net aircraft orders at Avolon has propelled that lessor to have the largest order book (392 units) of any in our table.

Narrowbodies continue to account for the large majority of the orderbook — 91.5% in terms of units on order. Only Air Lease Corp. and Avolon have made major investments in widebodies (and Amedeo has speculated on A380s).

Over the following pages Aviation Strategy profiles all the leading lessors — which we define as owning or managing more than 100 jet aircraft — in descending order of portfolio size.

General Electric Capital Aviation Services (GECAS)

GECAS is based in Dublin and has another 25 offices around the world, and remains well ahead as the world’s largest lessor, despite culling 50 aircraft from its jet portfolio over the last year, to 1,290 aircraft now.

Just 160 of these are widebodies, although they represent 43% of the lessor’s total fleet value. In total GECAS’s fleet is placed with more than 270 customers globally

In July, at Farnborough, GECAS contracted for 20 additional 737-800BCFs (Converted Freighters), bringing its total for the conversion of the passenger model to a cargo model to 50 firm orders and options. GECAS was the launch customer for the 737-800BCF, and the lessor took delivery of the first converted jet in April this year, which it leased it to a Swedish cargo airline.

The outstanding order book has eased back by 18 to 375 aircraft — which means GECAS has been overtaken as the lessor with the most orders. They currently comprise 177 Boeing aircraft (167 737 MAXs, six 787-9s and four 787-10s) and 198 Airbus units (10 A320ceos, 151 A320neos and 37 A321neos).


AerCap keeps on trimming its portfolio; it shrank by another 50 aircraft over the last 12 months, to reach 1,060 today, of which 955 are owned and 105 managed.

That reduction is helping to bring down the average age of the owned fleet — in the second quarter of 2018 AerCap sold 30 aircraft, with an average age of 13 years, and as at the end of June the average age of the owned fleet stood at 6.6 years, compared with 7.3 years in June 2017.

In terms of the owned portfolio, the majority of aircraft are — as ever — narrowbodies, including a hefty 403 A320 family aircraft and 268 737NGs. Widebodies include 77 A330s, 69 787s and 49 777s.

AerCap is headquartered in Dublin and has offices in Shannon, Los Angeles, Singapore, Amsterdam, Fort Lauderdale, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Seattle and Toulouse. Its fleet is placed with 174 customers in 72 countries.

AerCap’s outstanding orders total 333 (virtually the same as a year ago), comprising 203 Airbus aircraft (142 A320neos, 59 A321neos and two A350-900s) and 130 Boeing models (100 737 MAX 8s and 30 787-9s).


Having swallowed CIT Aerospace in 2017, Avolon remains firmly in third place in the leasing table this year, although its owned and managed portfolio has eased back by 12 aircraft over the last 12 months, to 562 today.

Avolon is a subsidiary of China’s Bohai Leasing (part of Hainan-based conglomerate HNA Group), and is based in Dublin, with offices in New York, Florida, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. See the ORIX entry below, but HNA has just agreed to sell a 30% stake in Avolon to ORIX, though it says it will retain its remaining 70% share for the long-term.

Avolon’s 532 owned aircraft have an average age of 5.2 years (as of end June 2018), which is slightly up on a year ago despite selling 41 aircraft during the second quarter of 2018, with an average age of 13.2 years.

The owned portfolio is heavily weighted towards narrowbodies, with 248 A320 family ceos and neos, and 147 737s accounting for three-quarters of the fleet, although Avolon also owns 50 A330s and 18 787s. They are placed with 156 clients in 64 countries.

Avolon has 309 aircraft on outstanding order — 132 737 MAXs, 15 787-9s, 92 A320neos, 30 A321neos, 30 A330-900s, 10 A350-900s.

SMBC Aviation Capital

SMBC Aviation Capital also reduced its portfolio over the last year, by 21 aircraft, giving it a fleet today of 252 owned and 179 managed aircraft.

The portfolio has an average age of under five years, and all but a handful are narrowbodies, including 108 737-800s and 131 A320 family aircraft. In July SMBC received its first 737 MAX 8, which was delivered to Aeromexico as part of a purchase and leaseback deal for 10 aircraft with the airline.

Based in Dublin, the lessor is owned by the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and also has offices in New York, Miami, Toulouse, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore. SMBC’s outstanding order book is just over the 200 mark, including 90 737 MAXs, three 737-800s and 109 A320neos.


BBAM’s fleet has nudged upwards by 16 aircraft in the last year, to 421 managed aircraft that are leased to more than 200 customers in around 50 countries.

The portfolio has a very wide range of models (25) ranging from 163 737s and 135 A320 family aircraft to 43 787s and two 767-300ERs.

BBAM’s head office is in San Francisco and it also has a presence in New York, Santiago, London, Dublin, Zurich, Singapore and Tokyo. BBAM is owned 50% by the Onex Corporation — a Canadian private equity company — and 50% by its management. It remains the largest lessor not to have any aircraft on outstanding order.

BOC Aviation

BOC Aviation added another 27 aircraft over the last 12 months, increasing its portfolio to 324, of which 295 are owned and 29 are managed.

The owned portfolio includes142 A320 family aircraft and 108 737s, with the remainder of the fleet comprising 21 777-300ERs, 12 A330s, six A350s, five freighters and a single 787. The average age of the overall portfolio is just over three years, which is one of the youngest profiles in the leasing business.

Currently all the aircraft in the portfolio are leased out, to 88 airlines in 35 countries. Unsurprisingly, the most important market for BOC is the China (defined as the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), which accounts for 29% of its portfolio by net book value, followed by Europe (24.6%), Asia-Pacific excluding China (22.6%), Middle East and Africa (12.7%) and the Americas (11.1%).

BOC Aviation is owned by the Bank of China and has its headquarters in Singapore, with other offices in Dublin, London, New York and Tianjin. It has 160 aircraft on outstanding order, comprising 71 737 MAX 8s, two 737-800s, 13 787-9s. 52 A320neos, 20 A321neos, and two A330-900s.

Air Lease Corporation

Based in Los Angeles and Dublin, Air Lease Corporation added 52 aircraft over the last 12 months, bringing its total portfolio to 320 aircraft, of which 271 are owned and 49 managed.

As of the end of June 2018, the owned fleet had an average age of 3.8 years, and included 118 737s, 90 A320 family aircraft, 25 777s. 20 A330s, and 11 787s.

The portfolio is placed with 93 airlines in 56 countries, and by net book value the largest market for ALC is still the Asia/Pacific region, at 41.5% (with 18.3% coming from Chinese airlines), followed by Europe with 31.0% and the Middle East and Africa with 13.3%.

ALC now has the largest order book of any lessor. In August this year it placed a firm order for 30 737-8 MAXs and three 787-9s, bringing its outstanding order book total up to a massive 393, comprising 158 737 MAXs, 18 787-9s, 25 787-10s, 12 A320neos, two A321ceos, 130 A321neos, 29 A330-900s, 10 A350-900s and nine A350-1000s.

ICBC Leasing

ICBC Leasing’s portfolio has risen by another 27 aircraft over the last year, to a total of 305. All but 48 of these are narrowbodies, and the portfolio is dominated by A320 family and 737 aircraft.

Owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. ICBC Leasing is based in Beijing and has other offices in Tianjin and Dublin. It specialises in leasing to the Asia/Pacific market, and specifically to the Chinese market where demand is still strong despite worries about the Chinese economy.

Earlier this year Fitch Ratings said that ICBC Leasing planned to launch “a specialised aircraft leasing company in Hong Kong”, but that while “the plan has

been approved by ICBC, no further details have been announced”.

It has 48 customers globally but China the single largest market with 17 customers that include the “Big Three” and almost all the second-tier carriers in the country.

The lessor has outstanding orders for 44 aircraft — 25 A320neos, 13 A321neos, six 737-800s.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) has a portfolio of 302 owned and managed aircraft — four fewer than 12 months ago following the full absorption of the 240-strong AWAS fleet it bought in August last year and the sale of 16 aircraft for $900m in the second quarter of 2018.

The majority are narrowbodies, with 136 A320 family aircraft and 109 737s, and the remainder made up of an assortment of widebody types, including 29 A330s and 12 777 freighters. The fleet has an average age of 6.2 years and is placed with 110 airline customers in 55 countries.

DAE is based in Dubai and has offices in Dublin, Singapore, Miami, Seattle and New York, It has no outstanding orders, although there are various reports that DAE is negotiating with Airbus and Boeing for potential orders of up to 400 aircraft.

Aviation Capital Group

Aviation Capital Group’s portfolio has risen by 30 aircraft over the last 12 months, to an estimated 295 owned or managed aircraft, the majority of which are narrowbodies. They are leased to approximately 100 airlines in 45 countries.

ACG is based Newport Beach, California and is a subsidiary of US insurance group Pacific Life. It also has offices in Dublin, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Santiago and Seattle.

In July this year, at Farnborough, ACG ordered 20 737 MAX-8s, bringing its total outstanding order book for MAXs to 97. Also on order are two 787-9s, six A320ceos, 60 A320neos, and 10 A321neos.


Aircastle’s portfolio expanded by 37 aircraft over the last year, bringing its portfolio to 228 owned and 12 managed aircraft.

The increase was all in owned aircraft, and — as at the end of June 2018 — the owned portfolio has a net book value of $6.7bn and an average age of 9.5 years. Aircastle is a specialist in older aircraft; in the first half of 2018 it bought 13 aircraft, with an average age of 8.4 years.

Aircastle also continues to overhaul the make-up of its owned fleet; back in June 2014 the portfolio comprised 79 new generation narrowbodies, 18 widebodies and 31 freighters or classic aircraft; today the mix has changed to 196 modern narrowbodies, 28 widebodies and just four freighters or classic narrowbodies.

The portfolio is leased to 84 customers in 45 countries globally. By net book value, Brazil is its largest market (8.1%, with 14 aircraft placed there), followed by the UK (6.8%, 32 aircraft); Indonesia (6.2%, 12) and India (5.6%, 16). Aircastle is based in Stamford, Connecticut, and with offices in Dublin and Singapore.

ORIX Aviation

ORIX Aviation is based in Dublin and has other offices in Hong Kong and Japan, and is owned by the Japanese financial services group Orix Corporation.

In August this year Orix Corp agreed to buy a 30% stake in Avolon from the HNA Group for US$2.2bn (the deal is expected to close by November), with the latter selling a minority stake in order to reduce its overall corporate debt pile.

ORIX’s portfolio has risen by an estimated 25 units over the last 12 months, to 225 owned and managed aircraft, the majority of which are older narrowbodies. They are placed with 65 customers in 30 countries.

CDB Leasing

CDB Leasing is owned by the giant China Development Bank and is based in Dublin, and Hong Kong, with a further office due to be launched in Shanghai soon.

After an IPO in 2016, CDB’s shareholding in CDB Leasing fell from 89%, to 64%, but according to an analyst “the bank remains the controlling shareholder with strong influence through key management personnel appointments”.

CDB leases a range of industrial equipment, but its aircraft portfolio has increased by 20 units over the last 12 months, to 220. It has a mixed fleet of narrowbodies and widebodies with an average age of under five years. It is placed with more than 50 airlines in 27 countries, the majority of which are in the Asia/Pacific region.

Its outstanding order book has increased significantly over the past 12 months to reach 174 aircraft, comprising 78 737 MAXs and six 787-9s, 58 A320neos, 32 A321neos

Apollo Aviation Group

The Apollo Aviation Group continues its steady growth, adding 65 aircraft over the last 12 months through a series of purchases of assorted narrowbodies and widebodies at a combined cost of just under $1bn.

Based in Miami and with other offices in Dublin and Singapore, the lessor employees 70 people, and its current portfolio of 200 aircraft are placed with more than 90 airlines in 52 countries globally.

Macquarie AirFinance

Macquarie AirFinance has trimmed its portfolio yet again over the last 12 months, by 10 aircraft to 196 as of today. All of these are owned as Macquarie AirFinance has now exited the last two aircraft that it previously managed.

The majority of aircraft are narrowbodies, comprising 110 A320 family aircraft and 71 737NGs, though the lessor also owns nine A330s. The fleet is placed with 88 customers in 50 countries, with two-thirds of the portfolio with airlines in either the Asia/Pacific or European regions (72 and 61 aircraft placed there respectively).

Part of the finance giant Macquarie Group, Macquarie AirFinance is headquartered in Dublin and has offices in London, Singapore and San Francisco.

In July the lessor ordered 20 A320neos, with 40 A220-300s (previously known as the Bombardier CS300) also on outstanding order.

Boeing Capital Corporation

Boeing Capital Corporation (BCC) is based at Renton, Washington and is a lender of last resort finance for all types of Boeing equipment.

As at the end of June 2018, the net value of BCC’s portfolio’s value was $3.5bn — around $400m lower than the value as of 12 months previously. BCC is reticent about releasing details of its portfolio, but in the first six months of 2018 BCC’s revenue fell 16.5% year-on-year, which Boeing says, “is primarily driven by a smaller portfolio”.

We believe BCC’s portfolio of fully- and partially-owned aircraft now stands at 190 aircraft, some 20 fewer than 12 months ago.

BoCom Leasing

A new entry this year is BoCom Leasing, which has a portfolio of 130 narrowbodies and 30 widebodies. A subsidiary of Bank of Communications (one of China’s largest banks), BoCom is based in Shanghai and with another office in Beijing. The portfolio is leased to 50 airlines globally.

Jackson Square Aviation

Jackson Square Aviation is owned by the Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Company and is headquartered in San Francisco, with other offices in Dublin, Toulouse and Singapore.

It continues to grow aggressively, with another 31 jets being added to the fleet over the last 12 months, bringing it to 151 aircraft (more than 130 of which are narrowbodies). The portfolio has an average age of just over three years and is placed with 49 customers in 27 countries.

A sign of its ambition was shown at Farnborough in July this year, when JSA made its first-ever direct purchase from a manufacturer by ordering 30 737 MAX-8s. 

Standard Chartered Aviation Finance

Standard Chartered Aviation Finance reappears in our table after nudging back up over the 100 aircraft level again. Based in Dublin, the lessor also has offices in Limerick, Hong Kong, London and Singapore.

It’s portfolio of 135 aircraft are mostly narrowbodies and are placed with 30 airlines around the world.

Goshawk Aviation

Dublin-based Goshawk Aviation (with an office in Hong Kong) enters our table for the first time following sustained growth since being launched in 2013. Owned by Hong Kong-based shareholders Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and NWS Holdings, portfolio expansion is part of a plan to move towards an IPO, and in July this year the lessor placed orders for 20 A320neos and 20 737 MAX-8s,

That came just one month after Goshawk announced a deal to buy the Irish subsidiary of San Francisco-based Sky Leasing. Though not yet executed (it’s due to complete in Q3 this year and therefore is not included in our fleet table), the deal will add 51 aircraft to Goshawk’s current fleet of 132, thereby increasing the portfolio to 183 owned and managed aircraft (141 of which will be narrowbodies) with an average age of just three years. When the deal is completed, the enhanced portfolio will be placed with 65 airlines in 35 countries.

Castlelake Aviation

Another new entry this year is Castlelake Aviation, which is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has additional offices in London, Singapore and Luxembourg. It has a portfolio of 120 aircraft, 100 of which are narrowbodies, and they are placed with 60 customers globally.

China Aircraft Leasing Company

China Aircraft Leasing Company (CALC) is based in Hong Kong and just sneaks into our table this year with a portfolio of 107 jet aircraft, all but a handful of which are narrowbodies.

Owned by a number of local investment companies, CALC has eight other offices around the world, although the only one outside the Asia/Pacific region is in the leasing stronghold (ie tax haven) of Dublin. It has added more than 25 aircraft to its portfolio over the last 12 months, which has an average age of around four years. On order are 50 737 MAXs, eight A320ceos and 130 A320neos.

Other lessors

Lessors with portfolios of less than 100 aircraft but with outstanding orders include Alafco — majority owned by the Kuwait Finance House — with 40 737 MAXs, 67 A320neos, 10 A321neos and five A350-900s.

Based in Dublin are Timaero Ireland, with orders for 22 737 MAXs and 20 A320neos, and Lease Corporation International, with 17 A220-300s and three A220-100s.

Dublin-based widebody specialist Amedeo still has 20 A380s on order, and is apparently embarking on a project which may involve setting up its own airline to operate them.

GTLK — a Russian state-controlled leasing company based in Dublin — has six A220-300s on order, while Dubai-based International AirFinance Corporation has four A320ceos and Singapore’s Global Aircraft Trading has two A320ceos on order.

Company Total portfolio Change Boeing Airbus Total Change
GECAS 1,290 -50 177 198 375 -18
AerCap 1,060 -50 130 203 333 5
Avolon 562 -12 147 162 309 126
SMBC Aviation Capital 431 -21 93 109 202 -1
BBAM 421 16
BOC Aviation 324 27 86 74 160 -10
Air Lease Corporation 320 52 201 192 393 22
ICBC Leasing 305 27 6 38 44 -13
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise 302 -4 -15
ACG 295 30 99 76 175 25
Aircastle 240 37
ORIX Aviation 225 25
CDB Leasing 220 20 84 90 174 130
Apollo Aviation Group 200 65
Macquarie AirFinance 196 -10 60 60 60
BCC 190 -20
BoCom Leasing 160 na
Jackson Square Aviation 151 31 30 30 30
Standard Chartered Aviation Finance 135 na
Goshawk Aviation 132 na 20 20 40 na
Castlelake Aviation 120 na
China Aircraft Leasing Company 107 na 50 138 188 na
Total 7,386 163 1,123 1,360 2,483 341

Note: This table includes jet lessors with at least 100 owned or managed aircraft; we exclude entities set up solely to manage the leasing activities of a specific airline.

Boeing Airbus Total
Alafco 40 82 122
Timaero Ireland 22 20 42
Lease Corporation International 20 20
Amedeo 20 20
GTLK 6 6
International Airfinance Corporation 4 4
Global Aircraft Trading 2 2
62 154 216
Narrowbody Widebody
737 MAX 737-800 A220-300 A320CEO A320NEO A321CEO A321NEO Total 787-9 787-10 A330-900 A350-900 A350-1000 Total
GECAS 167 10 151 37 365 6 4 10
AerCap 100 142 59 301 30 2 32
Avolon 132 92 30 254 15 30 10 55
SMBC Aviation Capital 90 3 109 202
BOC Aviation 71 2 52 20 145 13 2 15
Air Lease Corporation 158 12 2 130 302 18 25 29 10 9 91
ICBC Leasing 6 25 13 44
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise
ACG 97 6 60 10 173 2 2
ORIX Aviation
CDB Leasing 78 58 32 168 6 6
Apollo Aviation Group
Macquarie AirFinance 40 20 60
BoCom Leasing
Jackson Square Aviation 30 30
Standard Chartered Aviation Finance
Goshawk Aviation 20 20 40
Castlelake Aviation
China Aircraft Leasing Company 50 8 130 188
Total 993 11 40 24 871 2 331 2,272 90 29 61 22 9 211
gnuplot Produced by GNUPLOT 5.2 patchlevel 4 0 20 40 60 80 100 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Pct of total (100+) fleet Big Two Chinese Others Big Two Chinese Others

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