CDB Aviation seeks growth as it confirms Boeing order

14 March 2017

China's CDB Aviation Lease Finance may place further jet orders and make selective acquisitions as it expands globally after going public with an order for 30 Boeing airliners.

Confirming a Reuters report, the Dublin-based arm of China Development Bank identified itself as the buyer for 30 Boeing Co (BA.N) 737 MAX 8 aircraft.It was the first such announcement since leasing veteran Peter Chang became chief executive in December with a remit to expand.

"Our model is very clear: we will become a global leasing platform, which means international, including non-Chinese and Chinese (activities)," Chang told Reuters.

It comes as Boeing and Airbus (AIR.PA) face a slowdown in the aerospace business cycle. Several airlines are talking of postponing taking jets due to economic concerns.

"To a certain extent it has already started, and it is good for us as a long-term player. It could very well mean that it is an opportunity for us to place another order," Chang said."We do not want to be aggressively big for the sake of it, but we are aggressive and we are going to grow," he added.

"We will be looking at $3 billion to $4 billion a year growth ... not to the point of being too risky, but we will have a basic skyline (sequence of deliveries) from manufacturers and we will have a healthy order book," he said.

"And on top of it we will have a small budget for pop-ups, and that is flexible," he added, using a term for aircraft that become available when original buyers retreat.

Asked whether CDB, which has not entered an auction for Irish lessor AWAS, would also grow through acquisitions, he said, "Yes, in normal circumstances ... We can only digest so much and have to be diligent about that."

Chang was fishing in New Zealand when he was asked to run the huge Chinese bank's aviation leasing arm and said he would not have heeded the call if it had come from a short-term fund.

"We are long-term players. Our investors don't have a six-year exit strategy. We are not going to sell up our aviation portfolio and start renting bicycles. We are going back to the old-fashioned way of working with airlines, rather than trading aircraft. We are more traditional in that sense."

Chang last week attended the ISTAT Americas air finance conference, whose record attendance underscored a flood of investors looking for higher returns amid low interest rates.

The influx has put pressure on lease rates and spurred talk that some will exit as the cycle turns lower. Financiers say there are more than 50 leasing companies in China alone.

"There are lots of reasons why there are so many lessors from China. They have limited capital investment alternatives, a similar reason why so many investors went overseas," Chang said.

"I think that once the capital investment market is normal in China, when they have similar investment instruments to those abroad, then a lot of this money will leave aviation because they are not getting the yields."